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Food For Thought: Carbon Fees

| Food For Thought | September 23, 2021

An Op-Ed from Kay Kreiss, Sitka Citizens Climate Lobby

We are in dire straits from global warming – with fires in the Pacific Northwest; Hurricane Ida hitting the Louisiana coast and then killing people in New Jersey and New York; flooding in the South and Midwest; and drought in the Southwest. All these climate-exacerbated misfortunes are already here, and most of us know someone in the Lower 48 who is affected.

In Southeast Alaska, we are affected, as well, by smaller fish, shellfish poisons and drenching rains that have resulted in landslides. But there is something we can do!

This month we have an unprecedented opportunity to get the United States to lower greenhouse gas emissions which cause the earth to warm. We need immediately to decrease the use of coal, oil and gas – the major sources of carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxides that constitute greenhouse gases. How? The quickest way to decrease use of fossil fuels is to make them more expensive. We can do this by having the producers of fossil fuels pay fees that begin to account for the costs of climate change, air pollution that affects our health, and the tragedies we are now experiencing due to severe weather and forest fires. These fees must increase every year. The fees collected by the government can be returned to households to spend as they desire. We will need these climate dividends to pay the increased prices for gasoline for our cars, heating oil for our homes, cement for construction, and metals in our appliances – all of which use fossil fuels.

Biden got a bipartisan infrastructure bill in Congress that will help us get electric cars, but it is not enough to meet his goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030. Democrats are working on another infrastructure bill of $3.5 trillion, but even that will not cut emissions in half. To be successful in stabilizing our earth’s climate, we need a price on carbon in fossil fuels. The Senate Finance Committee is drafting a budget Reconciliation bill for a massive infrastructure package (a bill that can pass with just Democratic votes). That Committee is now considering a carbon fee (not part of the original Democratic package for climate legislation). We need to make sure the Reconciliation bill includes the carbon price, with accompanying rebate to U.S. households.

You can help make this happen! Email President Biden to say that you want a price on carbon at cclusa.org/white-house.  Tell your Alaskan senators, Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan, that you want a price on carbon at cclusa.org/senate. Tell your Alaskan representative, Don Young, that you want a price on carbon at cclusa.org/house. This is our best chance to get rapid action to lower fossil fuel emissions.

A price on carbon is not enough, but it is the best first step. Do it for yourself and for the youngest generation that has to live in this increasingly tragic world. Your personal choices to help the earth are not enough. We need our whole society to act now.

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