With everyone from Pope Francis to the CEO of Shell Oil advocating for sweeping global action on climate change, it is time to consider our options. Federal and state subsidies for green energy technology have allowed major advances in energy efficiency, but like all subsidies, must eventually end. Instead of government spending to make green energy more competitive, we should make carbon-based fuels more expensive through a fee or tax. Free markets are notoriously bad at incorporating the effects of pollution into the cost of goods and services, because doing so limits profits and economic growth, ultimately saddling taxpayers with cleanup costs. Recent proposals which return carbon tax proceeds directly to citizens through tax deductions or monthly checks – similar to Alaska’s General Fund for oil extraction – have been modeled to result in positive economic growth, job creation and significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. Proposed border levies would mitigate impacts on trade with fossil fuel burning nations, keeping American goods and services competitive internationally. Whether or not you believe we should address climate change, you should support a carbon fee and dividend for its positive economic impacts.
Austin Zinsser, Boise
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