Yeah, I wonder, too. And I don't know--though I was mostly a stay-at-home for the day (good), with no outdoor grilling (good), no heat or air running (good), but lots of lights (bad).
But this we all know. We've used the tax system for almost a century to reward those who who drill for, develop, and distribute fossil fuels. The use of those fossil fuels is a key factor in human creation of CO2, the major "greenhouse gas" that has warmed the earth so much that our glaciers are melting, the polar ice is disappearing, our oceans are rising, and droughts are increasing. Global warming--in spite of the attempts of the scientific ostriches amongst us to claim otherwise--is a real phenomena that we need to deal with.
The more we travel one-per-car or by car instead of by bike or foot or rail, the worse it gets. And of course for all of us who have "second homes" several hours' drive away, the more often we use those homes for just a weekend stay the more likely we are over-contributing to the buildup of CO2 from the major source--cars and homes that burn fossil fuel. The more we resist switching to more efficient light-bulbs, the more we insist on highway intersections that are lighted all night long as though they were bustling town centers and homes that have "security lights" running day and night (that likely merely light the way for potential theives), the longer we continue building homes with inferior windows, roofs and walls that require extra heating and cooling to be comfortably habitable in this age of indoor lifestyles, the more we refuse to use solar to heat our water and run our electrical systems, the more we rely on animal protein high in the food chain, the worse it will get. The social cost of not acting on climate change, in other words, is substantial, perhaps unimaginable.
Maybe, just maybe, it's time for Congress to start figuring out what to do to ameliorate the harm we humans do to this planet that is contributing to drastic climate change.
First, we need to shun the climate change deniers. Quit listening to them. They have a selfish agenda--continuing to exploit the planet's resources for their own (or their own group's) profits.
Second, we need to enlist science in finding the best answers. That means re-investing in basic science research through NSF and other peer-reviewed governmental funding of basic science. It also means governments need to provide adequate support for public education from kindergarden through post-doctoral work--something states and the federal government fail to do now.
Third, we must recognize our obligation to protect the environment (land, air, freshwater and oceans) and to preserve some of the fossil fuel resources for a future that may know better how to acquire and use them in ways we cannot now imagine. That means saying "no" to the "drill, baby, drill /frack, baby, frack/ pipe, baby, pipe" crowds. The "purple mountain majesties", the aquifers that have made the heartland the "breadbasket of the nation", the Alaska wilderness, the Amazonian jungles, and all the flora and fauna that depend on those fragile resources depend on our ability to "just say no." That means obama must say no to the Keystone XL pipeline, and Cuomo, to fracking in New York State. Etc.
Fourth, we should begin immediately to use our federal tax system--as we have on and off since its beginning--to push for appropriate energy development and use. The development we should support through the tax system is that which increases the efficient use of energy and supports climate-favorable energy-use changes. We should transition (hopefully, in a relatively short time frame) from the multitude of tax expenditures that favor "old" energy (oil, gas, coal) to tax expenditures that favor "new" energy (wind, solar).
One of the ways we could do that--through some kind of "carbon tax," as discussed in the recent CBO report, Effects of a Carbon Tax on the Economy and the Environment (May 2013) (hat tip to Tax Prof).
Lawmakers could increase federal revenues and encourage reductions in emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) by establishing a carbon tax, which would either tax those emissions directly or tax fuels that release CO2 when they are burned (fossil fuels, such as coal, oil, and natural gas). Emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases accumulate in the atmosphere and contribute to climate change—a long-term and potentially very costly global problem.
The effects of a carbon tax on the U.S. economy would depend on how the revenues from the tax were used. Options include using the revenues to reduce budget deficits, to decrease existing marginal tax rates (the rates on an additional dollar of income), or to offset the costs that a carbon tax would impose on certain groups of people. This study examines how a carbon tax, combined with those alternative uses of the revenues, might affect the economy and the environment.
Fossil fuels currently account for roughly 90 percent of all energy used in the United States, so taxing them would impose costs on the economy. The ultimate economic effects of a carbon tax, however, would depend on how the revenues from the tax were used. Some uses, such as reducing federal budget deficits or lowering existing marginal tax rates, would reduce the total costs to the economy from a carbon tax. Other uses would be unlikely to lower those total costs, but they could target relief to groups that would bear a disproportionate share of the burden from a carbon tax. I
This report, of course, is written primarily by economists and so depends for its predictions on those economic theories about substitution effects and income effects that are less than scientific in their reliability, especially in the discussion of offsetting carbon tax revenues by lowering corporate tax rates. Big Oil and their major owners have enjoyed enormous profits in considerable part through the low prices they've had to pay for public resources and the tax subsidies provided to them from exploration through extraction, refining and selling of those resources. I am not convinced that they would merit yet another tax break to "compensate" them for the impact of a carbon tax.
Getting to the point of actually reducing the tax expenditures subsidizing old energy and putting in place new tax provisions supporting the reduction of carbon creation, such as a carbon tax, will not be easy. Big Oil is heavily invested in lobbying, and oil-state reps know how much Big Oil gives to support their campaigns (directly and indirectly through those notorious C-4s). Many of our wealthy families have gotten that way in part because of the federal subsidies for fossil fuel exploration and development--they will not go lightly into the night. Look at the success of the right-wing's ALEC in getting the Interior Dept. to adopt its recommendations on fracking on public lands--not a public-spirited ounce of concern in that one. A blog commentator with the moniker "John Justice" (in a comment on a blog report on the Mail on Sunday's running of an "anti-green" piece) is worth quoting on this:
A recent highly authoritative report by Lord Stern ... pointed out that taking the necessary action to keep carbon emissions within bounds means writing off the value of about 60% of the reserves of fossil fuels still left in the ground with dire [results] for the companies holding these assets. We can therefore expect a huge lobbying and propaganda campaign from these companies to rubbish any proposals which might stop them getting at these reserves. ....