Ted Arnoldus: This climate plan would clean Utah’s air, too

Baker-Schultz Plan would use the market to reduce carbon emissions.

(Charlie Riedel | AP photo) Emissions from a coal-fired power plant are silhouetted against the setting sun, Monday, Feb. 1, 2021, in Independence, Mo.

Utah families want cleaner air on the Wasatch Front. Last year, 95% of Utahns considered smog a “serious problem” and, according to research by Dr. C. Arden Pope and others, they are right. Dirty air is causing negative health effects for ourselves and our children and even shortening lifespans.

While pollution is a challenge everywhere in the industrialized world, the Wasatch Front has a special set of circumstances. Our unique topography produces temperature inversions, which intensify the problem.

These inversions are a natural phenomenon, but the way we respond to them is on us. We should do what we can to ensure everyone who breathes on the Wasatch Front can enjoy a high-quality lifestyle.

Importantly, Utah’s economy thrives because we have a culture of free enterprise and innovation, not heavy-handed regulation and large-scale government intervention. What we need, then, is solutions that help improve air quality without unnecessarily restricting economic growth, costing jobs, or doing anything else that increases the cost of living for Utah families.

As the owner of a freight company, I understand all too well the threat that well-intentioned regulation can pose for economic development. Too often, when presented with a problem, our country jumps to government intervention as our first course of action. But there are frequently other, more effective, approaches.

One solution, in particular, stands out as environmentally effective, politically viable and economically sound. It would significantly reduce emissions without increasing the size of the government or adding any new regulations. And it has buy-in from the energy industry, Utah business leaders, conservatives and the rising generation of Utahns.

I am referring to the carbon dividends plan co-authored by Republican Secretaries of State James A. Baker III and George P. Shultz. The plan would charge fossil fuel companies a fee for their emissions and return the revenue collected to the American people.

Unlike regulatory plans that rely on command-and-control tactics to pick winners and losers, the Baker-Shultz approach would leverage the free market. By creating a level playing field for clean energy competition and innovation, the plan would spur $1.4 trillion in new private sector investment and cut US carbon emissions in half over the next 15 years — all while continuing to grow the economy.

This plan follows the tradition of President George H.W. Bush, who used a market-based approach to successfully reduce acid rain. By internalizing the cost of pollution — the same strategy at the heart of the Baker-Shultz Plan — the U.S. solved the problem faster than expected, and at a far lower cost.

Today, with Utah’s economy in need of protection from the likely costs of climate instability, lowering carbon emissions is, in itself, an important task. But the Baker-Shultz Plan would go beyond that. In addition to targeting carbon, the plan would also deliver environmental co-benefits that improve air quality here in Utah.

According to a recent report from the Climate Leadership Council, the plan would substantially reduce inhalable particulate matter, as well as sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds. These are the pollutants that react with other chemicals in the atmosphere to create the smog we Utahns breathe each winter during inversions.

Without any additional regulation or government intervention, the Baker-Shultz Plan would reduce these pollutants by up to 50% by 2035.

Unsurprisingly, the carbon dividends strategy is gaining steam here in Utah. College Republicans from across the state have voiced support for this plan, as have the Utahns for Carbon Dividends coalition of community leaders, which formed last year to advance this solution.

As a business owner, I am pleased to be joining this esteemed group and look forward to working with Utah’s leaders to protect our economy and environment, our liberties, and our way of life.

With Washington’s regulatory culture, it is easy to assume that cleaning our environment necessarily requires economic restrictions and a bigger government. The reality is, there is a far better approach.

To live — and breathe — free, the carbon dividends solution is the right way forward.

Ted Arnoldus

Ted Arnoldus, Lehi, is a member of the Utahns for Carbon Dividends coalition of businesses and the owner of Ashby Logistics, LLC, dba Unishippers of Salt Lake.