Guest Essay: Wineries, industry support Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act

By Rick Thompson, Citizens' Climate Lobby

Top economists, local winery and manufacturing industry leaders support "carbon fee and dividend" approach; urge Tom Reed to do the same.

Over the past year, 16 wineries around Keuka Lake and Seneca Lake and 10 more around other  Finger Lakes have endorsed a federal bill – the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act (EICDA), which would charge fossil fuel companies for their emissions. Fuel companies would pass on these added costs of course. To protect consumers, the bill would return all net revenue in equal shares to households. The average household (in Yates County and nationwide) is predicted to come out ahead under this policy.

Two significant local manufacturers have also endorsed this bill.

According to Jason Saner, President of ABTEX in Dresden, "We’re supporting this because we want to get out in front of climate change. The carbon fee part of the policy makes fossil fuels and fossil-fuel based products more expensive; not a lot, just enough to push manufacturers to innovate cleaner energy products which will help the world address climate change. Will it make things more costly for us? At first. But we're still very bullish on this, because a carbon fee also rewards businesses that can innovate and engineer clean energy products like we can do well. The fee is also predictable, which helps businesses plan for change. And equally importantly, the dividend part of the policy helps the average consumer afford the rising cost of fossil fuels."

Jason Saner, President of ABTEX

Scott Reston, President of Coach & Equipment in Penn Yan, added, “We are committed to making a difference in our community. As a supplier of buses for public transit, we have already taken steps to build buses fueled by propane — a cleaner-burning fuel than gasoline — for some of our clients. Transitioning to clean energy is just an additional step to making a positive difference in our community right here in the beautiful Finger Lakes region and also in communities around the U.S. We are starting to see more and more bids on the street that contain categories for electric vehicles (EV). Therefore we are in discussions with potential partners that will work with us to convert the gasoline chassis to electric motors. Also the large chassis manufacturers like Ford, our primary chassis supplier, are offering more and more vehicles with electric motor options.

"Our clients include the largest cities in the northeast and many of them are looking at changing their fleets from gasoline to electricity in the coming years. It’s inevitable that the market is heading is this direction so it’s important that we stay abreast of all of the technology available so we can continue to supply buses to our clients.”

Scott Reston, President of Coach & Equipment

Last year, Congressman Tom Reed stated in two Town Halls that he is seriously considering this kind of "carbon fee and dividend" approach. Top economists support it as being good for the economy, good for people (effectively protecting most low- and middle- income households), and good for the climate (effective and foundational).

Locally, this bill would also:

1. Help us be good stewards of the Finger Lakes, keeping them a beautiful and productive wine region.

2. Give local businesses a predictable price they can plan on, while helping them transition to clean energy to remain competitive.

3. Protect our health and our tax dollars: flooding is predicted to intensify in the Northeast. The EICDA wouldn’t make our storms less intense (for that, we need to take some of the carbon out of the air that’s already there). This bill would help with another necessary piece: curbing the amount of additional carbon pollution we pump into the air, so we at least don’t make the situation much worse.

4. Give our grandchildren a better future. The International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says to keep global temperatures to safe levels, we need to achieve net zero emissions by 2050, and that pricing carbon is necessary and foundational to achieve this. According to Columbia University, the EICDA alone would do the lion’s share of this needed U.S. emissions reduction.

Congressman Reed chairs a group in the U.S. house, the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus, which looks for common ground solutions to large problems. One of their stated priorities for this term is climate change and energy innovation.

Given the value of the EICDA for addressing climate change and spurring energy innovation, and given local support, I urge Congressman Reed to listen to these two key business sectors in his district and discuss the EICDA with the Problem Solvers Caucus. This or something similar should pass if we’re to keep local businesses thriving, protect our natural inheritance and ensure children’s and grandchildren’s future.

26 Finger Lakes Wineries endorse the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act: 

- Anthony Road Wine Company, Penn Yan

- Barry Family Cellars, Burdett

- Bet the Farm Winery, Trumansburg

- Billsboro Winery, Geneva 

- Damiani Wine Cellars, Burdett

- Dr. Konstantin Frank, Hammondsport

- Fox Run Vineyards, Penn Yan

- Frontenac Point Vineyards, Trumansburg  

- Fruit Yard Winery, Dundee

- Glenora Wine Cellars, Dundee

- Heart & Hands Wine Company, Union Springs

- Heron Hill, Hammondsport

- Hunt Country Vineyards, Branchport

- Keuka Spring Vineyards, Penn Yan

- Lakeshore Winery Inc., Romulus

- Lucas Vineyards, Interlaken 

- McGregor Vineyard, Dundee

- Ports of New York, Ithaca

- Prejean Winery, Penn Yan

- Rasta Ranch Vineyards, Hector 

- Seneca Shore Wine Cellars, Penn Yan

- Shalestone Vineyards LLC, Lodi

- Sheldrake Point Winery, Ovid

- Three Brothers Winery, Geneva

- Treleaven Wines, King Ferry

- White Springs Winery, Geneva

Rich Thompson of the Citizens' Climate Lobby submitted this essay.

Rick Thompson, Citizens' Climate Lobby