Carbon Tax: The Catalyst for a Clean Energy Revolution

President Trump’s cries to revive the coal industry are falling on deaf ears in many parts of the country. In an era where more sustainable energy sources, like solar and wind, are gaining favor around the world, many citizens, lobbying groups, and progressive decision-makers at the city and state level are looking towards a cleaner energy future and are ready to oppose the coal-leaning, oil-oriented Trump administration.

President Trump supports coal during rally in Philadelphia on October 10, 2016 (Photo Credit: Dominick Reuter, Getty Images)

But finding ways to rally our divided nation together under a green agenda is much harder than it looks. One of the more potentially promising ways America can make serious headway towards sustainability can be found in the form of a carbon tax.

Simply put, a carbon tax taxes the amount of carbon dioxide released by fossil fuel emissions. In other words, it is a fee on the amount of pollution caused by energy consumption. Americans primarily depend on five sources of energy to power their daily lives: coal, petroleum, natural gas, nuclear energy, and renewables. However, because the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by each of these sources differs, the tax rate assigned to each would also be different. Burning coal produces the most carbon dioxide and would therefore be taxed the highest, followed by petroleum and natural gas. As a result, the carbon tax acts as an economic incentive for people to switch to cleaner sources of fuel in order to save money, with the added bonus of leading towards a cleaner environment. If the model set by Canada’s British Columbia is followed, which has had a carbon tax in place since 2008, the extra revenues generated by a carbon tax could lead to income tax cuts and rebate programs. This advantage would help lessen the impact on low-income individuals and families.

Other than the few progressive states, like New York and Rhode Island, that are spearheading the push towards a carbon tax, the majority of the individual states in the U.S. are far from even considering the concept. Their reasoning is arguable understandable. The effects of a tax on products that are so ubiquitous to the American way of life would be felt at every level, from individual consumers to large industries. To save money, corporations would have to find innovative ways to cut back on their carbon emissions in their production and distribution processes and individuals would have to find ways to lessen their household energy consumption. So how would a carbon tax benefit us, if it seems to add such an economic burden and individual responsibility?

As society is learning, carbon dioxide itself if is proving to unleash a greater environmental burden than mankind has ever imagined. Since the 1950’s, carbon emissions have grown almost exponentially, wreaking demonstrable havoc on Earth and its inhabitants along the way. Increased carbon dioxide levels are responsible for accelerating climate change, which has a host of its own consequences: rising sea levels, extreme weather patterns, and resource scarcity to list a few negative outcomes. If these issues are not an immediate concern where you live, they may very well become an alarming issue to future generations. The longer we wait to significantly curb our carbon emissions, the greater and wider the effects of climate change will be felt.

Fuel consumption trends in recent years show a decrease in the use of petroleum and coal (Image credit: U.S. Energy Information Administration)

Unfortunately, we have grown comfortably accustomed to a carbon-intensive lifestyle and it’s a fact that we achieved our current high standard of living with the help of fossil fuels. In order to maintain the contemporary standard of living with a lessening reliance on coal and petroleum, we need strong economic incentives like a carbon tax in order to mobilize society, government decision-makers, and corporate officers to move towards an energy revolution.

Carbon has created valuable benefits to society over the last several generations, but a tipping point is near. Arguably, we are at the precipice of making carbon a tool of the past. We now have the technology and means to harness cleaner, more renewable energy sources without jeopardizing our progress as a nation. The cost of wind and solar energy continues to drop. The latest reports by the U.S. Energy Information Administration show a decrease in the use of coal and petroleum. All we need now are policies like a carbon tax to be put in place to utilize this growing clean energy market.

Sticking with carbon would be putting our nation at a standstill. We owe it to ourselves to continue to advance the way our country is fueled. A carbon tax would be just the right to push towards the future we desperately need and should usher in for future generations.

Sabrina Munatones

Sabrina Munatones is a fourth year Society and Environment Major and Japanese Minor. Her interests lie in food systems, sustainable living, and her dog.

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1 Response

  1. Californius says:

    Unfortunately, answers on issues related to energy and the environment differ from state to state and from nation to nation. Although a comprehensive global policy is a long way off, calls to action like yours will help to pave the way forward.

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