A Nov. 5 letter (Reader’s View: “Clean energy does not mean cheap energy”) posed the question: “How much are you willing to pay for clean energy?” That leads me to ask: How much are you willing to pay for dirty (fossil-fuel) energy?

Some of that price can be quantified: The cost to taxpayers for federal disaster relief has risen from about $1.3 billion to $13 billion in the past three decades, as a Washington Post analysis found. Since climate change is the underlying cause of more-frequent climate disasters, this price can be expected to continue to rise. But much of it is not easily quantified, including in deaths, sickness, pollution, infectious disease, reduced agricultural yields, decreased water availability, and species extinction.

There is a solution, one proposed by the Citizens Climate Lobby and endorsed by the CEOs of major energy corporations and prominent Republican economists like Martin Feldstein. It’s a carbon fee (tax) and dividend.

The price of clean energy (solar, wind) is falling and increasingly is less expensive than fossil-fuel energy. Market forces eventually will displace dirty energy, but it won’t happen quickly enough to reduce carbon emissions by 50% by 2030, an imperative supported by climate scientists worldwide. The most viable means to that reduction is placing a price on carbon, and the fairest way to do so is to combine that tax with a dividend to taxpayers.

A Treasury Department study found that the bottom 70% of American taxpayers would come out ahead under this plan. Many others would come out even. Only the wealthiest Americans would feel the bite of this tax, and it would be one they easily could afford.

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The cost of inaction and maintaining the status quo is too high. Call your U.S. senators and representative to urge them to support a carbon fee and dividend.

Roger B. Day


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