There are many extremely serious problems which must be addressed by our country, such as addiction treatment, health care for every person, the yawning chasm in people’s wealth and the related harsh social divisions.
But, amazingly, there is another which I think dwarfs all those: carbon dioxide from fossil fuels entering our atmosphere and changing everyone’s climate.
There is plenty of proof: supercharged hurricanes, truly severe forest fires, flooding in coastal cities around the world, low-lying lands no longer habitable, droughts in vulnerable regions causing vast tragic migrations. It is a uniquely difficult problem of global breadth.
But there is real hope. After years of behind-the-scenes discussions by serious people, a powerful and very sensible proposal has been presented to both the U.S. House and Senate. The Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act ( HR 7173 and S 3791) was recently introduced by a group of Republicans and Democrats (working together).
The idea of the bill is simple: Put a cost on all the CO2 we release in this country by taxing coal, oil and gas as they are pulled from the earth. This will naturally cause price increases for us all, not just our gasoline and heating fuel purchases, but a myriad of things we buy. Since what we buy will become more expensive, over time the free market will lead toward energy conservation and renewable energy. In other words, the extra cost and the free market will cause each of us to release less carbon dioxide to our air.
Those price increases by themselves would be unpopular and would hit hardest those least able to pay. However, the other half of the policy calls for all the tax revenue to be distributed equally among all Americans as a monthly “dividend” check. This is expected to be a net benefit for two-thirds of us, though a net loss for the more affluent, who consume more but also are more able to afford the small burden.
To sum up, the policy will move us away from a fossil-fuel based economy and toward a renewable future. Two-thirds of us will, yes, pay more but have an net gain due to the monthly dividend. And many jobs will be created in renewable energy.
It sounds pretty sensible to me, especially at a time when the consequences of our current path are being made blindingly clear.
To help this become real, the best thing you can do is talk about it with family and friends, and maybe call or write Sen. Susan Collins and Angus King, and Reps. Jared Golden and Chellie Pingree. You might also join the national (and Bangor) Citizens’ Climate Lobby, which is single-mindedly dedicated to this cause. We have to take action and soon. The consequences of inaction are unimaginably gigantic.
Henry Lanford lives in Bangor after a career in marine electronics for The Hinckley Co. in Southwest Harbor.