The recent storms and pervasive power outages provide a stark reminder of the challenges we face with global warming. The images of Governor Shumlin inspecting by helicopter the broad areas without power were reminiscent of Tropical Storm Irene, one of the most devastating climate disasters to hit Vermont. Utilities and road crews across the state are working harder and spending more money to clean up after storms and prepare for the next one. And the next one seems to be coming on fiercer and sooner than it did in the past.
Vermonters are resilient and independent by nature. The conversations when the power was out focused on how each of us managed by melting snow on our woodstove, and using our collection of candles and stored bottles of water. When some folks had power restored before others, we helped each other out by filling water bottles and sharing dinners together.
That same resilience and independence serves us well in taking action to tackle global warming and ward off future disasters. Sitting back and waiting for the next storm is not an option. We owe it to ourselves and our kids to take a bite out of carbon pollution now, while building a more vibrant and robust economy.
Putting a price on carbon pollution is one meaningful step we can take to tackle this challenge. Today, oil is relatively cheap. And proponents of new gas pipelines are quick to boast about the low cost of their polluting product. It may be a last gasp from a dying industry as oil and gas tycoons slash prices to feed an unhealthy fossil fuel addiction. Putting a tax on carbon pollution transforms this last gasp into a breath of fresh air. Instead of throwing energy dollars out the window or lining oil executive pockets, we are investing in a cleaner energy future.
A carbon pollution tax charges oil and gas companies for the pollution they create. It provides companies and customers with incentives to invest in cleaner supplies. Fuel dealers can make more money helping customers save oil instead of burning more of it.
We all pay taxes and pay too much now to help oil executives get rich. A carbon pollution tax instead puts these dollars back in our pockets by providing refunds or dividends to every Vermont resident and business. Vermonters can get a carbon dividend by reducing pollution similar to how Alaskans receive oil dividends.
A portion of the tax can be invested in clean energy solutions, helping Vermonters buy more fuel- efficient cars, weatherize homes or install solar panels or heat pumps. These investments reduce customer costs while keeping more energy dollars in Vermont.
The real beauty of a carbon pollution tax is that it transforms the wild fluctuations we already experience in gas and oil prices into making us more resilient and less dependent on polluting fossil fuels. This past year alone, gas prices have changed by nearly $1 per gallon, first increasing and then decreasing. A change from month-to-month of 5 cents per gallon was not uncommon. Phasing the tax in over ten years lets us put this same $1 to work reducing pollution, while the total tax oil companies pay each year amounts to less than the regular 5 cent monthly fluctuation in prices the rest of us experience.
Let’s get polluters to pay their fair share. It’s time for our tax dollars to support our energy goals instead of subsidizing fossil fuels and increasing pollution.