Thursday, April 12, 2007

Saving the Earth and our Tax Dollars?!

One of the most balanced Tribune columnists (in my opinion), Steve Chapman, had an interesting take on goverment regulation of fossil fuel consumption. They haven't historically worked well, since many measures that have been tried in the past created waste in one area while trying to spare waste in another (such as the example he points out about the incentive to increase ethanol use, and how it encourages farmers to burn more fossil fuels to harvest more grain)--essentially robbing Peter to pay Paul.

He has a good argument about letting market forces control the process. "Necessity being the mother of invention," and all. In other words, if we make it too expensive to use environmentally-unfriendly fuels, the demand for more ecologically sound energy sources will increase, and create more funding for research to produce those things. In order to "create the pain," he suggests adding a carbon-emissions tax on a scale that taxes the most carbon-producing fuel the highest (coal, oil, natural gas, etc.). This would be a good way for the government to avoid the "micromanagement" that's hobbled every good idea they've had in the past. In other words, create this tax, then step back and let the market do the rest. No more meddlin'. That just makes it messier.

And the tax wouldn't come without relief, either:

"Some economists propose that carbon tax revenues be used to finance equal cuts in income and payroll taxes. That way, we'd get environmental improvements and a lighter load on companies and workers. Meanwhile, the total tax burden on the economy would be unchanged."

While we're at it, how about more programs that plant more trees? Remember Arbor Day? It was sort of a big deal in the 70s, while its proponents were trying to get it off the ground. There was even a Peanuts special about it ("It's Arbor Day, Charlie Brown"--sort of the forerunner of "It's the Economy, Stupid"). But then, after the initial wax, it sort of waned and became obscure, like the Susan B. Anthony dollar coin.

But trees and plants thrive on carbon dioxide, and while it doesn't solve our problems, it would be a good first step. (Trees also provide shade, for which we'll be grateful when the ever-hotter summers arrive.)

Besides, look at all the trees that we've razed to make room for ugly, characterless housing developments, like the hideous institutional-looking townhomes that litter the sides of I-55 and I-80 in the Southwest suburbs (and other places, too, no doubt--they just seem to proliferate more along interstates--like anybody'd want to live with all that traffic noise?!). Talk about throwing away silk purses for sows' ears.

It would be nice to give something back. It would be a start, anyway.


Anonymous Ed said...

Trees take in Carbon Dioxide and release Oxygen into the air. We can use all the clean air we can get. Yet, it is Carbon Monoxide that causes the ozone layer to erode away. From exhaust fumes of vehicles and factories.
We need a new clean energy source. Like, Nuclear fusion. In the near future that will give us an unlimited supply of energy. Perhaps cars powered by Lithium Crystals like on star trek. If only Exxon would allow the research to continue.

5:22 PM  
Blogger Aaron said...

Soon, Exxon will have no choice. There just won't be enough oil left.

7:52 PM  

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