Burning fossil fuels is by far the greatest source of the greenhouse gases causing climate change. However, the full cost of fossil fuel energy is not included in the price of the fuel. We pay for that later when we deal with the consequences of global warming. Using a car to illustrate this point, “We pay for the gas, we pay for the car, and we pay for the insurance, but we don’t pay for the pollution that comes out of the tail pipe.”
It is time to raise the price of coal, oil, and gas and put the market on the side of fixing that inequity. This will allow all the other energy sources that do not put CO2 into the ecosystem — solar, wind, geothermal, hydro, and nuclear — to be competitively advantaged because the fossil fuel energy will be relatively more expensive.
Cap-and-trade is one of those market-based initiatives creating incentives to reduce greenhouse gases. California (since 2013), and a group (RGGI) of ten northeastern states (since 2008) have been moving forward in this direction.
Here are the differences between carbon taxes and cap-and-trade: “A carbon tax directly establishes a price on greenhouse gas emissions — so companies are charged a dollar amount for every ton of emissions they produce — whereas a cap-and-trade program issues a set number of emissions “allowances” each year. These allowances can be auctioned to the highest bidder, as well as traded on secondary markets, creating a carbon price.”
The challenge in both cases often comes down to how the revenue should be distributed.
Apparently there are 4 possibilities:
1. Climate justice. The money collected should be spent in pursuit of promoting climate justice.
2. Investments in renewables.
3. Tax swaps, such as reductions in taxes of some kind and using the revenues to make up for that.
4. Dividend. Give it back to the people in equal shares. Doing that provides people a regular check, reminding them that carbon is being taxed, which might additionally encourage them to lobby for an even larger tax.