A wide range of events is causing an increasing number of people to believe that climate change is happening and that something should be done about it. Those events include record-breaking hurricanes, floods, droughts, wildfires, temperature changes, movement of animals to cooler areas, movement of fish to cooler water, and the near extinction of some species.
A lobbying effort to impose a carbon tax is developing. A carbon tax will not solve the climate change problem, but it will do harm to the majority of people who pay the tax. The theory is that, if the price of carbon fuel increases, we will buy less carbon fuel. A carbon tax would punish most of us for heating and cooling our homes or driving to work or purchasing groceries. Everything is produced with energy. A carbon tax doesn’t produce non-carbon energy.
Another proposal is that the government would refund the carbon tax. Does that make sense? If gasoline is $3 a gallon and government were to impose a $1 per gallon tax but then refund the $1 at the end of the year, gasoline is still $3 per gallon. What does that accomplish?
There are energy sources that do not use carbon-based fuel including solar panels, wind turbines, hydroelectric dams, and nuclear power plants. Wind turbines and solar panels get a lot of attention, but they produce intermittently, i.e., when the sun shines or there is a significant wind. Those systems have to be backed up with electric plants that produce 24/7. Geothermal and ocean wave energy systems may help in a few places. Nuclear plants don’t emit carbon dioxide, but they do produce radioactive waste that has be stored and guarded for a very long time. Toyota is working on a hydrogen-powered automobile engine. Hydrogen burns clean. When hydrogen combines with oxygen, it produces heat to power the engine, and the by-product is water. But hydrogen has to be produced economically; that’s the challenge.
We can do our part by not being extravagant or wasteful and by urging development of a technology that works anyplace and continuously. But we cannot solve the clean energy equation or reverse climate change by punishing ourselves with a tax if we use carbon energy. We cannot switch to a non-carbon energy source if the source isn’t available.
Dr. Sivaram, a scientist at the U.S. Council on Foreign Relations, writes in his book Taming the Sun that the sun delivers more energy to our planet in one hour than all 7.5 billion of us use in a year. That sounds like an opportunity, and scientists and engineers are working to exploit it.
A retiree who served two years in Vietnam as an infantry officer, retired from military service, and worked three years as a U.S. Civil Service employee, as well as in Egypt as an employee of the former Radio Corporation of America — RCA, Stevenson reads history, follows issues important to Americans, and writes commentary for community newspapers.