January 1, 2013

The Dec. 31 editorial “California’s climate-change experiment” did a good job highlighting some of the pitfalls of California’s cap-and-trade law. Another core problem with that law is that, while the cap on greenhouse gas emissions is fixed, the price for those emissions is not. Without a predictable price signal, the private market will not invest in the innovative solutions that would effectively slash the use of fossil fuels.

A better approach would be to impose a defined carbon tax on the fossil-fuel suppliers, with a set annual increase, and then return all the collected fees to the public in the form of direct payments or reductions in other taxes. This would protect low- and moderate-income families while avoiding the divisive question of politicians handing themselves a new revenue stream.

So why not implement this simpler, more transparent and more market-friendly policy? Political courage, or the lack thereof. Lawmakers fear the ire of anti-tax groups and media personalities more than they fear the future devastation of climate change. It’s up to us, the American citizens, to let them know it’s time for an attitude adjustment.

Rick Knight, Brookfield, Ill.