SOMERVILLE, MA -Carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases pollute the atmosphere and drive climate change. These gases are accumulating at a rapid rate, warming the planet and spelling big trouble for our children,
grandchildren and ourselves. Carbon emissions are also a big risk to our health: The American Lung Association grades the air quality, of in Massachusetts Cs, Ds and Fs.
Doing nothing “until we know more” was yesterday’s reason for delay. Now the citizens of Somerville have the power to make decisions that will have a significant impact on the environment.
Environmental Tax Reform (ETR) is sometimes referred to as a carbon tax. This is a new type of environmental policy that puts a price on carbon and makes the polluters pay, while returning the bulk of the revenue to citizens in the form of income and sales tax reductions to protect them from the rising cost of fossil fuels. ETR is not just another “tax” imposed by the big government on the little people. It is added to the price of each coal, petroleum and natural gas fuel, but only in proportion to the carbon dioxide thrown off as a byproduct. Resorting to such a sliding scale opens up an opportunity and changes behavior: Consumers can finesse the tax by switching to a lower-polluting alternative, such as from coal to oil, or from oil to natural gas, or from natural gas to an alternative like solar or wind power.
Economists from the REMI study have run the carbon tax reform through a computerized model of the state’s economy. The upshot: If carbon pricing were the law today, it would be responsible for an extra $2 billion of state GDP by 2035. Keeping Somerville and surrounding towns involved will help for Massachusetts to be the first state to benefit from a carbon tax.