Conservatives create carbon tax proposal

Elizabeth Harasym
Science & Tech Editor

Recent studies, such as those published in the journal Science, confirm the reality that rising global temperatures are the result of increased global-warming emissions.

The combustion of fossil fuels releases air pollutants such as carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide. These compounds remain in the Earth’s atmosphere, absorbing sunlight and trapping heat, which leads to increased temperatures on the planet.

Because global temperatures have risen at such an alarming rate over the past 50 years, scientists vehemently urge for the reduction of air pollutants and carbon emissions.

Such legislation enacted to promote the reduction of fossil fuel usage includes the Clean Power Plan under the Obama administration.

This policy aims to reduce the carbon pollution emitted from power plants by enforcing standards of clean and efficient operation and promoting the advancement of clean energy innovation. The Clean Power Plan is historic in acknowledging the need to take action against climate change.

With the political shift into the Trump administration, however, the fate of the Clean Power Plan and other regulations is unknown.

Republican elder statesmen, including former Secretary of State James A. Baker III, former Secretary of State George P. Shultz and a former secretary of the Treasury Henry M. Paulson Jr., have recently endorsed a carbon tax plan that seeks to tax carbon emissions at $40 per ton.

This tax would be paid by the oil refineries who, in turn, increase costs for consumers. Imported fossil fuels would also increase in cost for countries which do not have a carbon tax already in place. The higher prices would create a greater incentive to reduce the amount of fossil fuels that Americans use daily.

The money collected with the tax would then be used to supply dividend checks to Americans allowing them to adjust to the higher gas and electricity bills. The proposal estimates that an average family of four would receive $2000 annually in dividends and that lower income families would benefit financially overall, as they would receive more money back than they paid in taxes.

This plan is a significant step for the party, which has previously disacknowledged climate change and questioned the human role in its occurrence.

Based on free-market principles and limited government ideals, the carbon emission tax appeals to more conservative views, and advocates of the plan suggest that it would be more efficient than the Environmental Protection Agency regulations and standards implemented by the Obama administration.

Opponents of the plan argue, however, that the regulatory infrastructure should not be dismantled. They suggest that taxation would not be enough to protect the public and the environment, and in addition, those involved in the environmental movement would want the dividends directed toward advancements in renewable energy.

How the Trump administration will receive this proposal is unknown, as some of his cabinet members have expressed doubt in climate change as a consequence of human action.

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