The rest of the story: The proposed carbon pollution tax

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Rep. Jim Condon’s Sept. 22 column painted a grim picture because he failed to mention the benefits of the carbon pollution tax proposal. These include tax reform, increased energy independence, economic growth and lower greenhouse gas emissions, all of which are strongly supported by a significant majority of Vermonters. I am among the tens of thousands of Vermonters and 500 businesses who believe a carbon pollution tax is the best way to achieve these goals.

Rep. Condon is correct that most Vermonters can’t afford Teslas or solar farms. A major purpose of taxing carbon pollution is to fund clean energy programs, making them affordable for many more Vermonters, especially those with low incomes (who get clobbered when fuel prices rise). While most of the money would be used for rebates and tax decreases, 10 percent would fund our clean energy transition by reducing the large up-front costs of building weatherization and installation of heat pumps, energy-efficient appliances and solar systems. Everyone deserves a chance to save energy and money, use renewable energy and leave a better world for future generations.

A carbon pollution tax would grow our economy. Of the $2 billion a year we spend on fossil fuels, $1.6 billion leaves Vermont. A large increase in weatherization, installation of efficient technologies and solar will create up to 2,000 good new jobs and keep millions of dollars circulating in our communities. In fact, the higher the tax, the more economic benefits result.

Rep. Condon is incorrect — the tax benefits and low-income rebates do not “evaporate.” Anti-poverty advocates collaborated on the bill, protecting low-income people with a rebate and more access to energy programs. Average families, municipalities and businesses will all benefit (e.g., per-employee payments). As our use of fossil fuels decreases, we’ll all save money and be increasingly protected from price increases.

Decreased income, sales and/or employment taxes will boost our economy. Phasing the tax in over 10 years gives us time to put clean energy measures into place, markedly decreasing our need for old fuels as their price rises. Economists of all stripes consider such a tax a good free-market way to incentivize behavior change. Five hundred Vermont businesses and the Gund Institute for Ecological Economics at the University of Vermont support the tax.

The choice is ours. Do we continue our frightening dependence on fossil fuels? Or do we reform our tax system for fairness and include everyone as we transition to a clean energy economy, a more resilient society and a more livable planet?

For more information, see www.energyindependentvt.org.

Sue Deppe, MD, Colchester

Dr. Deppe is chair of the Colchester Energy Task Force. She lives and practices psychiatry in Colchester.

She can be reached at deppe@together.net or 658-7441.