CO2? More Like CO Tax.

Riya Goel, Youth Activist
Riya Goel, Youth Activist

A carbon consumption tax. It seems simple. It’s right in the definition: a tax on carbon. But is it really that easy to implement?

Let’s start off with some definitions. The reality is that this tax is a fee that is imposed on the burning of carbon-based fuels, such as coal, oil, and gas. The tax would provide a way in which users of carbon fuels pay for climate damage caused by releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. If this monetary disincentive is raised high enough, people are encouraged to switch to alternative, clean energy sources by making these options more economically rewarding. This helps the day to day person realize their impact on the environment.

A carbon price can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions by including the costs of climate change in economic decisions throughout the economy and can help spur investment and innovation in energy sources and new technologies that are less carbon intensive.

Even a mid-range carbon tax could generate $250 billion in annual revenue.

The revenue from pricing carbon can be used to reduce other taxes and can be done in a revenue-neutral way that moves away from taxing things we want more of (for example, employment or income) to taxing those we want less of (for example, greenhouse gas emissions). A carbon tax can also help to fund research and development on how to adapt to climate impacts or provide green job training or other support for industries or regions that are disproportionately affected by the carbon price, such as coal miners.This is an essential policy for reducing, and potentially eliminating the use of fossil fuels, the primary source of the deteriorating health of our climate.

Several countries have their own versions of a carbon tax. In the United States, there are federal and state taxes on gasoline and diesel, which are used to pay for road and transit projects. However, building upon this to create a carbon tax and directing it towards our environment is what proves to be difficult for lawmakers. The coal mining industry and politically powerful corporations such as Koch Industries oppose this reform. An example of this political hierarchy can be seen in Australia, which recently repealed carbon tax reform after a new conservative government came into power.

A big question is: How would this tax be implemented? Some versions of the carbon tax say that about 80% of United States emissions could be cut only be taxing only the top thousand taxpayers, and about 90% could be cut adding the general population at a modest rate.

So the real question is, do you think that a carbon tax is feasible? Is it too much to ask from everyday citizens, or is it a step in the right direction? With the carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel of the United States hovering at around 5 billion metric tons a year, even a mid-range carbon tax of $50 per metric ton would generate on the order of $250 billion in annual revenue. $250 billion is a lot and stresses the fact that if this tax were not designed or implemented well, there is plenty of room for error.

Want to learn more about the carbon tax, and some other debates around it? Check these links out!

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