What’s next for carbon pricing? Analysts speculate on future legislative action in wake of midterm elections.

While climate change measures fared poorly in last week’s midterm elections, all signs point to renewed efforts in 2019.

Wired magazine headlines its discussion of the election this way: “A carbon tax is pretty much inevitable even if voters said no.” The story leads with Washington voters’ rejection of I-1631, but also points to other climate change defeats. (The reporter doesn’t mask his disappointment.)

On its face, 1631’s apparent defeat was the capstone on a pretty bad day for environmental legislation. Arizona voted against a harder shift to renewable energy. (California tech billionaire Tom Steyer spent almost $18 million trying to put that one over the top; the local power company spent more.) Nevada said yes to renewables but declined to break up the state energy monopoly.

Of I-1631’s significance, Wired writes,

That’s a disappointing end for a bill that some environmentalists and journalists had held out as a bellwether. Success would’ve told politicians and policymakers that, yes, Americans were finally ready to pay a little more money to save the planet.

For Stateline, Rebecca Beitsch reports,

Although numerous left-leaning measures found success at the ballot box last week, many voters said “no thank you” to policies that could curb climate change.

Washington state, for the second election cycle in a row, rejected putting a price on carbon emissions. Arizonans won’t require utilities to get half of their energy from renewable sources. And in Colorado, voters declined to require more distance between homes or parks and oil and gas drilling.

Defeats aside, the debates will continue.

Environmentalists say the state level still might be the best place to seek changes, though not necessarily at the ballot box, where the energy industry remains a fierce and well-funded foe. Given the defeats, green groups say they need time to reflect and regroup, but generally will emphasize a host of alternative tactics, including filing lawsuits, targeting local problems and lobbying governors and state legislators.

“We don’t solely strive to make progress through ballot initiatives,” Brune said. “We don’t solely try to make progress through elections. There are lots of ways you can make progress on climate change, whether through courts or cities, or working to replace coal plants at the local level.”

Legislative action in Olympia is contemplated.

“We will definitely be pushing in the upcoming legislative session for something like this, because the problem is not going away. It’s not an option,” said Nick Abraham, spokesman for Yes on 1631, Washington’s carbon fee campaign. 

A key figure in the previous carbon tax initiative is quoted.

Yoram Bauman, an economist who crafted and spearheaded Washington’s 2016 measure, said the green movement too often blames campaign spending by the fossil fuel industry for an inability to get votes, rather than trying to build a coalition that includes those industries in negotiating a compromise policy.

Jim Brunner reports in the Seattle Times that Gov. Inslee sees more opportunity in 2019.

Inslee blamed the I-1631 loss on “the oil industry’s obfuscation of a complicated issue,”,,,

But Inslee isn’t giving up on the issue, saying “we are in really good shape to pass climate-change legislation” in the next session of the Legislature. He pointed to newly elected Democratic legislators, saying, “I know these candidates. I have interviewed all of them” and that “virtually all of them see the world through a scientific lens.”

Specifics of that legislation are being developed and could emerge in the governor’s budget proposal, to be unveiled in December.

McClatchy also reports that the issue will likely be on the governor’s 2019 legislative agenda.

In the meantime, Inslee is undeterred by the carbon fee loss, and will continue working in the arena he knows best — the environment. He said a new state legislature will help him advance climate change legislation in January.

“I’m very confident about that, because we know we have multiple tools in the toolkit to help fight climate change,” he said.

Act 2 begins in January.