The Carbon Tax

In the Op-Ed section of the New York Times, Thomas L. Friedman writes about his support for a carbon tax.  Currently, the American government is looking at ways to slash spending and, according to Friedman, “the solutions that are lose-lose and divisive are on the table, while the solution that is win-win-win-win-win — and has both liberal and conservative supporters — is off the table.”  The solution he is talking about is taxing people and corporations for carbon emission.

The purpose of this tax would be to increase revenue while helping the environment.  The idea is to use this tax to motivate people to switch to more eco-friendly energy sources.  If they do not, the government will make money.  And of course if they do, then the people will live in a healthier environment.

The idea of a corrective tax is not a new one.  “The British economist Arthur Pigou advocated such corrective taxes to deal with pollution in the early 20th century… [Using corrective taxes] to address global warming is also an old idea. It was proposed as far back as 1992 by Martin S. Feldstein on the editorial page of The Wall Street Journal.”  Currently, the United States has cigarette taxes on both the federal and state level.  Smoking harms both the smokers and the people around them.  These taxes generate a lot of revenue and discourages people from smoking.  “[A] tax of $25 per ton of carbon-dioxide emitted…would raise approximately $125 billion annually,” which could be used for personal tax cuts or reducing the federal deficit.

So why isn’t there a carbon tax in America already?  Freidman says it’s because the Republicans advocate tax cuts and the Democrats are only interested in taxing the rich.  In addition, both sides need support from big corporations in order to get into office, and corporations would be the most heavily affected by such a tax.  However, I am opposed to this tax because I believe it could hurt the people instead.  What if corporations don’t change and use more energy efficient fuels?  In order to make at least the same amount that they already do, they will need to increase prices for products and services, maybe even come up with more fees.  While higher-income Americans may be willing to pay increased prices, low-income Americans will be put into a bind.  They cannot afford these price increases and they may not have enough money to leave the country, so what can they do?

This is not to say that I’m opposed to using alternative energy, such as wind power.  Windustry talks about the advantages and disadvantages of using wind energy, such as being cost effective, creating jobs, supporting national (and personal) independence, and just being overall better for the environment.  Some of the disadvantages are the noise and the appearance of the wind turbines.  That is why people say NIMBY, or “not in my backyard.”  But of course, there are always pros and cons to whatever energy source you use.  You just have to weigh out the overall sacrifices and gains.  Is it better to breathe clean air and  pay less for fuel or worry about noise and appearances?

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