Paying for the Damage We Do To The Environment

The national debate on climate change is heating up.  An issue that was once a fleeting thought in the mind’s of most American citizens has quickly found its way to the forefront of our political, social, and economic debates.  A country that once prided itself on doing everything “big”, including our hulking, gas-guzzling automobiles, has had a change of heart.

Today, the “green” movement has swept across the nation, alerting citizens to the damage that is being done to our environment on a daily basis.  As a result, some of the most popular automobiles on America’s roads are less harmful hybrid vehicles, while an increasingly larger section of the population has decided to park their cars, depending on mass transit for their daily work commutes and social outings.  Nonetheless, the American people should be applauded for making the extra effort to save what’s left of our environment, but lifestyle changes alone will not be sufficient to reverse decades of harm and neglect.

How do we pay for new environmentally friendly technology? One proposed solution involves a tax on carbon emissions, as was suggested in an August 2, op-ed piece in the Washington Post by Rep. John Dingell (D-MI), Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.  Acknowledging the enormous amount of time and money needed to reduce carbon emissions, Chairman Dingle suggested that the best way to fund these improvements is by creating a carbon emissions fee, as well a gas tax increase.  There are a couple of advantages to both of these options.

First, the cap-and-trade system will force the biggest “carbon culprits” to be accountable for their emissions.  Not only will they be accountable, but the taxes or fees can then be used for furthering the study and development of new carbon neutral technology.  Second, an increase in the gas tax will also generate money that can be used for new technology, or even to fund large scale transportation and infrastructure projects.  An increase in the gas tax would also make the decision for citizens to car pool or use mass transportation a little easier.  As the old saying goes, you would be “killing two birds with one stone”.  Gas tax increases are never politically popular but as the tragic events in Minnesota on Wednesday illustrate, we have a serious disinvestment gap here in America.

I’ll talk more about fuel efficiency—another important part of this puzzle—tomorrow.

-Darryl Yates, NARP Transportation Assistant

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