Symposium 2015: The majority of greenhouse gas emissions come from automobiles. Is it time to institute a carbon pricing system for individuals who drive automobiles?

Cartwright—The solutions are very simple.  First, we need to impose a special gasoline tax on every gallon of gasoline and diesel sold in America.  This tax should be punitive.  In this instance, yes, you should be punished for your behavior.  I’ve long promoted the benefits of higher gasoline prices at the pump.  You have people driving less, capital gets invested in alternative energy and alternative transportation means, with fewer cars on the road there will likely be fewer accidents which should lower insurance premiums, and of course pollution is reduced.  I’ll gladly pay eight or nine dollars per gallon if it means there are fewer crazy drivers on the road every day and at the same time it helps clean up the air.   


Normally, I oppose higher taxes but I think I can make an exception in this case.  Here’s what I would propose.  Let’s start with a $3 dollar surcharge imposed on every gallon of gasoline sold in the United States.  On whole, we consume about 140 billion gallons of gasoline per year.  That would be about $420 billion dollars raised annually.  Of course, this kind of a surcharge is going to have an impact on the amount of gasoline consumed.  Let’s say that gasoline consumption is cut by one third which is about 47 billion gallons per year.  This leaves about 93 billion gallons consumed at a $3 surcharge which equals about $279 billion annually.  To be clear, this surcharge would have to be put into a trust fund.  No government agency could raid the trust fund and spend the money for anything other than the intended purposes.  The funds raised by the gasoline surcharge could only be used for road projects, traditional rail and high speed rail, other forms of public transportation, renewable energy projects, and most importantly planting trees.


Yes, you heard me correctly, planting trees.  Greenhouse gas emissions come most in the form of carbon dioxide.  As I recall from elementary school science, trees and plants take in carbon dioxide and release oxygen.  So, if we plant more trees, won’t we be taking greenhouse gases out of the air and replacing them with oxygen?  Isn’t this a simple approach to reducing climate change that should get all the tree huggers excited?  It’s a pretty simple concept, right?  Two things are happening in the world today—we’re creating more carbon dioxide because more people throughout the world are driving and we’re cutting down trees and forests left and right for development, urban sprawl, or whatever you want to call it.  We’re putting more greenhouse gases into the air and we’re taking out the natural air filters in nature at a more rapid pace than we’re replacing them.  So, shouldn’t we use some of the funds from my gasoline surcharge to designate tracts of land for reforestation?


Here’s another interesting thing to consider.  Burning a gallon of gasoline results in about twenty pounds of carbon dioxide being released into the air.  The average tree can only absorb about forty-eight pounds of carbon dioxide per year.  You can do the math—twenty pounds of carbon dioxide times 140 billion gallons of gasoline consumed per year in the United States equals a massive amount of carbon dioxide being emitted each year just here in our country or 2.8 billion pounds of carbon dioxide.  It takes nearly sixty billion trees to process this carbon dioxide.  We probably have that many trees in America; I don’t really know, but adding a few million more every year wouldn’t hurt one bit.

Read more here at Thinking Outside The Boxe

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