Temperatures have steadily risen over the past 130 since we first began to keep accurate records. Nine of the hottest ten years globally have been in the 21st century. The debate over why this is happening is over. By burning carbon (specifically the fossil fuels – coal, natural gas, gasoline, and oil), humans are literally burning our planet up.
The solution has to be to reduce consumption. One proposal – cap and trade – is unwieldy and expensive to administer and prone to corruption. Accordingly, I favor a very steep carbon tax on every gallon of gas purchased, every ton of coal burned, every cubic foot of natural gas distributed, and every tank of heating oil/propane delivered. Such a tax would immediately disincentivize the purchase of fossil fuels.
A carbon tax would make alternatives like solar and wind much more profitable and therefore attractive to investors and the government wouldn’t need to guarantee loans. One obvious problem, the tax would be regressive since poor people spend a higher percentage of their incomes on fossil fuels than rich ones. Without amelioration, the tax would render many poor, working, and middle-income Americans destitute and disrupt seriously the economy on a macro level.
All collected monies except the less than 1% in estimated administrative costs should therefore be rebated directly and in equal shares to all Americans. The regressive tax would automatically become progressive since rich people spend more in an absolute sense on fossil fuels than poor ones (think Al Gore) so they’ll be paying in more than they get back while poor people will get more back than they pay in.