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Letter: Parallel routes to efficiency

Re “A conservative solution” (Monitor letters, Jan. 17):

I was impressed with Price Atkinson’s conservative solution to a problem that will only grow over time. Carbon is a raw material that flows through most energy interactions on this planet. Wherever possible, our society believes in free-market mechanisms to shape how raw materials are allocated and how the accompanying waste is handled. Atkinson proposes adding a price to the use of carbon, to fix market distortions and reduce the more clumsy government regulations. The heart of his proposal is to make any such pricing revenue-neutral, by allowing a tax on carbon that is 100 percent replaced by reductions in other taxes.

I am struck by how similar this is to a key proposal by Bill McKibben, coming from the camp of “the environmental left.” McKibben likewise believes that the market should reflect the full costs of using carbon. To get there, he starts with the same kind of carbon tax, which is then 100 percent returned to taxpayers by way of dividend payments. Both proposals are start-up engines for making carbon subject to the market’s efficiencies.

Predictably, McKibben leans more on governmental leverage to get us there, via dividends sent back to citizens. Just as commendably, Atkinson leaves government out of the loop as much as possible, with a 100 percent “tax swap.”

I see these as parallel routes to a destination held in common: efficient energy allocation, while lowering the effects of carbon emissions.



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