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My latest Harder Line column goes deep on one of the most important tussles over climate and energy policy. I'll share a glimpse of that and then Ben Geman will get you up to speed on the rest.
Oh and one more thing: I'm going on NPR's 1A program today to talk about climate politics. For more information and to tune in, click here.
Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios
What to do with the money raised from a carbon tax looms as the biggest sticking point to the policy as it slowly emerges from political purgatory in Washington.
The big picture: I know, we're talking about a fantasy here because Republicans controlling most of Washington right now, including President Trump, categorically oppose carbon taxes.
But the policy is slowly gaining support in pockets across the political spectrum, which could pick up momentum after the 2020 elections. So let's suspend our disbelief and look at this tussle over the cash, which is central to everything.
Driving the news: After a decade of stasis, some lawmakers, think tanks and advocacy groups are beginning to push policies with various prices per ton of carbon dioxide emissions, as well as different uses for the money.
Here's a glimpse of the money options — and the fault lines....
1. Among the public, the most popular use of money raised from a carbon tax is to restore the environment, according to a recent poll by the University of Chicago's Energy Policy Institute and the AP–NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.
2. The most high-profile proposal at the moment, and the one that has the most support among economists, is to rebate most or all of the money back to consumers in dividend checks.
3. Former GOP Rep. Carlos Curbelo of Florida, who just lost a re-election, introduced carbon tax legislation last summer that would have repealed the federal gasoline tax and used the money mainly to fund infrastructure.
4. Some conservatives say a carbon tax should be used to address fiscal woes, like looming insolvent funds.
Go deeper: Click here to read the whole column.
House: Newly empowered Democrats' will begin their promised work on climate change with multiple hearings this week.
Senate: The Environment and Public Works Committee will vote tomorrow on the nomination of acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler to formally get the top job, likely paving the way for a full Senate vote.
White House: Trump delivers his State of the Union speech Tuesday night. Let's see if any signs emerge of stalled plans to support economically ailing coal-fired and nuclear power plants emerging from their deep freeze.
Earnings: More global giants report this week, including BP's Q4 profits tomorrow and Equinor's tally Wednesday.
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios
Axios' Felix Salmon writes ... If you're an executive who doesn't feel like making tough decisions about corporate priorities — like PG&E's potential climate liabilities or Citgo's Venezuela ties — there's always an alternative: file for bankruptcy.
Felix's thought bubble: These problems are not what America's bankruptcy regime was designed to solve. Bankruptcy is messy and expensive, and judges don't tend to make great corporate executives. But it's easy to see why an executive holding a hot potato might be tempted to pass it on to someone — anyone — else.
PG&E, the solvent California utility, filed for Chapter 11 protection this week, citing assets of $71.4 billion and liabilities of $51.7 billion.
Tesla showroom and service center in Brooklyn, N.Y. Photo: Spencer Platt via Getty Images
Axios Expert Voices contributor David Friedman explores how U.S. EV sales — which rose over 80% last year — can spread faster to the popular crossover and SUV markets.
Why it matters: Automakers may claim they’ve embarked on an electric revolution, but most have been slow to actually deliver on some fronts.
Where it stands: The federal electric vehicle tax credit has been helping to lower the cost of EVs for hundreds of thousands of consumers in recent years. But that program needs to change to better incentivize EV purchases...
What to watch: So far 10 states have adopted zero emission vehicle standards, requiring automakers to sell a growing percentage of EVs in participating states.
Friedman is VP of advocacy at Consumer Reports.
"The strategies that we’ve used up until now just haven’t been effective."
Who said it: California Air Resources Board chairwoman Mary Nichols, chatting with Reuters.
Context: She's discussing why carbon emissions from transportation in the state are rising, even though overall emissions have fallen substantially over the last decade or so, thanks largely to making electricity production greener.
Why it matters: The quote and the story get to the difficulty of wringing carbon out of transportation, which is now the largest source of CO2 emissions in the U.S. and by far the biggest in the Golden State.
The big picture: "That failure has less to do with energy or environmental policies and more with decades-old urban planning decisions that made California — and especially Los Angeles — a haven for sprawling development of single-family homes and long commutes, according to state officials," Reuters explains.
On a related note, this tweet is very clever.
Go deeper: California's transportation challenge