Carbon tax will help us
make smarter choices
Correspondent Mike Venaglia complained in a recent letter that a carbon tax would be passed on by businesses to consumers, thereby raising prices. The government collects the tax and refunds the money to the public. He asked, what's the point? Of course businesses will pass the tax down to consumers. That's the point. Everyone gets the refund, but the consumer pays by choice. If the price of a good or service reflects the true cost — the cost of producing it, transporting it, and repairing harm coming from its use — then individual consumers can make rational choices of what to buy based on price. Sane consumers will choose less expensive goods and services (factoring in personal needs), and the effect of their choices will be passed up to businesses, thereby influencing their own energy choices.
In an ideal world, the prices of goods and services would include all externalities, all associated costs. The problem, of course, is figuring out what those costs are. Who's to say what will be the total environmental and health costs of burning fossil fuels and the cost of a warming climate? Congress might not be the most effective body to determine externalities. Fortunately, there are other alternatives — processes, not people — to make these decisions. Still, a carbon tax, though far from perfect, is at least better than allowing energy choices that have cost us dearly to escape responsibility for downstream effects and thereby enjoy artificially low prices. That's what has gotten us to where we are today. Past generations have unwittingly shouldered us with a massive bill. Now that we are witting, it would be unconscionable to pass on an even higher bill to our descendants.