National View: Carbon tax needed for energy independence
Increasing investment in renewable forms of energy is a critical step we must take to increase our energy security, improve our air quality, and reduce carbon emissions and climate effects.
As the war in Ukraine continues, energy independence has become a priority among Western countries that struggled to cut ties with Russia. Despite our status as a net-energy exporter, the U.S. still relies on Russia for nearly 8% of oil imports. As the war’s costly effect on energy prices, particularly at the gas pump, continues, Americans are recognizing the importance of energy independence and are looking to the government for relief.
Fortunately, policymakers from across the political spectrum are discussing ways to insulate our energy supplies from crises abroad. Increasing investment in renewable forms of energy is a critical step we must take to increase our energy security, improve our air quality, and reduce carbon emissions and climate effects.
Over the last decade, renewable energy in the United States has almost quadrupled . However, even with the success seen so far, transitioning to sustainable clean energy will cost between $7.8 trillion to $13.9 trillion over the next 30 years,” as the Wall Street Journal reported in October 2021. This kind of investment will require a massive undertaking by both the public and private sectors.
But there is one policy currently being considered in several proposed bills before Congress that would speed up and help pay for this transition: a carbon tax.
A revenue-neutral carbon tax uses market forces to both raise revenue and induce innovation, accelerating a transition toward a cleaner energy grid. This solution supports economic growth by using the funds raised from taxing carbon emissions to pay for the energy transition, offset the need for other burdensome regulations, and reduce other taxes like those on earnings and income.
Businesses would then have more capital to invest in green technology and research motivated by the desire to avoid paying a carbon tax. Not to mention, having a consistent strategy to tackle harmful emissions gives us a policy we can rely on, as opposed to a regulatory model that takes a more uneven and inefficient approach — and one that can change rapidly with the change in control of Congress and the White House.
The threats we face both from the climate crisis and Vladimir Putin’s irrational attack on Ukraine are immediate. But by transitioning our energy sector away from fossil fuels, we can both reduce emissions and improve our independence and security for the future. While these changes will not affect the current situation in Ukraine, they can increase America’s freedom from our dependence on the international fossil fuel market that currently has a major effect on American lives. Simply put, one of the quickest ways to reduce our reliance on foreign fossil fuels is to stop using them.
The United States should not have to restrain itself on the world stage due to a lack of energy independence. A carbon tax that promotes sustainable, renewable energy and eliminates our reliance on fossil fuels will help ensure that is never the case again. It is hoped, as Congress revives reconciliation talks with a focus on addressing climate change, a carbon tax will be a key part of this discussion.
Robert M. Summers is a former secretary of the environment in Maryland.