A Thought on a Pollution Tax

I’ve been thinking for a while about why global warming bothers me so much. You would think that as a “greenie” I would be all over this issue. Instead of proclaiming catastrophe to every new A Clean Lifer I avoid the subject. I have just found that there are so many other pressing issues. Items that are more relevant to everyday life than some future global immolation.

Which brings me to cap-n-trade. A supposed solution to global warming. I’ll just come out and say it: I don’t think its going to work. Not because we don’t need it but because its a bad idea. I like to say a square peg being pushed into a round hole. Here’s why.

The issue at hand is pollution. Companies, people, and governments are polluting (via carbon). This means all of us and we are doing it at an incredible rate. Sooner or later we all going to have to pay for our pollution. Like the smog control issues in Los Angeles, the plastic bag charge in DC, or the brownfield cleanups in New York. For years now we have already been paying for our pollution, just doing so after the fact.

pollution towers

This is where cap-n-trade comes in and attempts to solve the problem. It’s a continuation of after-the-fact, monday-morning-quarterbacking. In essence we know you are going to pollute so let’s create an artificial market so you can buy/sell your pollution “allowance”. We take it for granted that pollution has to happen? If so, we create a fake market, make allowances for pollution, allow people to sell pollution?

Yeah, when you explain it like that it does sound dumb. Even more I would venture that the only reason this solution is being bandied about is because the money from the buying/selling is supposed to go cleaning up pollution or to poorer countries.

Like I said, a dumb idea.

Instead, I suggest we invoke a pollution tax. You pollute you pay for it, upfront. I say we do away with letting companies and people pollute first then pay years later (or not at all). Let’s incorporate the costs into the activity. Like if you want to use electricity then you are going to have to pay for consulting contract to clean-up the power plant and reduce its pollution. The more electricity you use the more you pay.

Here is a perfect example. The city of Alexandria in Virginia has a contract out to clean-up their local power plant. This is to meet EPA standards, state standards, and local pollution concerns. Who do you think is paying for that $80 million dollar clean-up? It is definitely not the previous users of the electricity the plant produced. It is the future users through an increase in the cost of electricity. Basically, we have a system where you can pollute all you want and then let someone else pay to clean it up.

This bothers me deeply because my parents generation has been doing just that. They polluted the hell out of this world and are now bequeathing it to me dirty and I have to pay to clean it up. Thanks.

You may be thinking to yourself that this is impossible. There is no way we know the costs of pollution. Wrong. We know the costs of nearly every type of pollution that humans can produce. We have been cleaning up, litigating, and charging people for years now.

I just think it’s time to start realizing this and doing something about it. We have all we need to stop passing-the-buck and avoid the silliness of cap-n-trade. Problem is people don’t want to actually pay for their own pollution…

Why is that?