|Without a carbon tax, we're on course to pour more carbon into the atmosphere.|
Activists and researchers have long known that putting a solid price on carbon emissions is critical in the struggle to put the brakes on human-caused climate change. Thanks to a research paper by some of the country’s leading energy and environmental economists, we now know that a tax on carbon emissions is not the best tool we have. It’s the only one.
The paper, “Will We Ever Stop Using Fossil Fuels?,” published in the Journal of Economic Perspectives, makes the case that the dropping prices of renewable energy sources are being outpaced by the dropping prices of fossil fuels, and absent new taxes on carbon emissions the world will continue to use fossil fuels.
New extraction methods have made fossil fuels cheaper and increased the amount of oil and gas we can access. U.S. oil reserves expanded 59 percent and natural gas reserves expanded 94 percent between 2000 and 2014. We have consistently had about 50 years’ worth of accessible oil and natural gas reserves over the last 30 years. Global consumption of oil rose 7.5 percent, coal 24 percent and natural gas 20 percent from 2005 through 2014.
The authors of the paper are Christopher Knittel of MIT and Michael Greenstone and Thomas Covert of the University of Chicago. Greenstone was President Obama’s first Chair of the Council of Economic Advisors.
“You often hear, when fossil fuel prices are going up, that if we just leave the market alone we’ll wean ourselves off fossil fuels. But the message from the data is clear: That’s not going to happen any time soon,” Knittel told the MIT News Office.
To learn about getting a carbon emissions tax passed in Massachusetts, come to a presentation by State Senator Michael Barrett at the West Roxbury police station at 7 pm on Monday, April 11.