Carbon tax makes sense: Politically, economically, environmentally (letter)
April 4, 2018
"We're approaching the tipping point" (Peter Bergh, Sunday, March 25) urges us to "seek viable, attainable (climate) solutions before it's too late."
But what are those solutions? The scientific community has made it very clear that personal, local and even statewide actions on climate change will be completely inadequate. Without national legislation that has a global effect, we'll reach the "tipping point" referenced in the letter, which will mean runaway global warming resulting in the extinction of the human race and possibly all life on Earth (National Academy of Sciences).
Fortunately, we're close to another tipping point: Solar and wind energy are now becoming as cheap, or cheaper, worldwide than any fossil fuel, storage included, and their prices just keep dropping (World Economic Forum, Forbes, Lazard, Bloomberg New Energy Finance).
They're on the brink of being economically viable without government subsidies. If we tax fossil fuels substantially more each year, they won't be able to compete at all. If we give all that tax money directly to the taxpayers, they'll use it to buy cheaper, clean energy, making a bigger profit every year. The faster solar and wind energy scale up, the faster their prices will drop (Scientific American), creating a virtuous cycle.
In addition to curbing the climate disasters that have cost U.S. taxpayers more than $1.2 trillion so far (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) and are now costing them hundreds of billions annually (Government Accountability Office, National Geographic), clean energy will also have enormous economic and health benefits. Just burning coal does about half a trillion in damage to our economy every year (Harvard) and kills more than 200,000 American annually (MIT).
Conversely, wind and solar power are already saving Americans an astounding amount of money in health costs alone, about $88 billion over eight years (Nature Energy). Not getting sick and dying from carbon pollution is worth quite a bit, it turns out.
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A carbon tax that's paid to the taxpayers would be attractive to any politician. First, economically, there's no cost to taxpayers or consumers, it would result in $10 billion in health care savings every year and create more than 5 million good-paying, permanent (40-year) local jobs (in their district/state) For details, Google Stanford University's "Solutions Project 50 States."
Secondly, ideologically, this policy is simple, transparent and small-government — no new regulations, expenditures or agencies necessary. Rewarding people for switching to clean energy is a market solution. All this makes it viable in Congress.
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