10 January 2008

A carbon tax: responsible, moral and fair

When I was little, I was instructed at my mother's knee that if I made a mess I should clean it up. It was one of those rule of life things -- a moral imperative, if you like. I may even have been over-instructed because I confess to being somewhat anal about it. If, for example, I see someone toss candy wrappers on the street or leave their garbage in a public park, it annoys me. How dare someone show such disrespect for the property of others, for the public domain, a righteous little voice inside me complains. And yet I do the same thing myself all the time.

When I drive my car down the street, it emits a cloud of noxious vapours into the air, the very air everyone else has to breathe. My garbage may not be visible, but it is surely there and it makes a much fouler mess than candy wrappers or picnic trash. But how do I remain true to my mother's instructions and clean it up?

I could stop driving of course but seeing as I, an inveterate walker, do less than 3,000 kilometres a year in my little Honda civic, I feel that's asking rather a lot of me. And if I should rely on buses or planes ... well, they dump a similar garbage. And yet the little voice nags at me.

Fortunately there is a solution, and it doesn't involve attaching a balloon to my exhaust and dropping it in the trash bin when I get home. It is a carbon tax. If I am required to pay a tax on the gasoline I buy, and that tax is dedicated to reducing pollution, then I am, indirectly at least, cleaning up after myself.

So, I say to our governments, bring it on. Carbon tax us. Insist that I, and all the others out there littering public space with their foul gaseous messes, clean up after ourselves, or at least compensate for our behaviour. It is morally responsible and it is fair. The more you pollute, the more you pay. Mothers everywhere would approve.

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