Gas Prices and Protests

In France, on November 17th, some 280,000 people took to the streets to protest. “They are incensed at a planned fuel tax increase set to take effect on Jan. 1, raising gas prices around 12 cents per gallon and diesel about 28 cents per gallon. (Last week, gasoline cost around $6.26 per gallon in Paris, while diesel was around $6.28 per gallon”, according to NBC News).  The purpose of the price increase is to help the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy. Protests and police using tear gas against the protesters have continued. This dramatic negative reaction to policies that increase the cost of fossil fuels is discouraging. Would the same happen in the United States and elsewhere?

In the United States, the “Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act of 2018” was recently introduced in Congress. The introduction to the bill states it is “to create a Carbon Dividend Trust Fund for the American people in order to encourage market-driven innovation of clean energy technologies and market efficiencies which will reduce harmful pollution and leave a healthier, more stable, and more prosperous nation for future generations.” No one expects the bill to pass in this Congress, but it’s intention is to encourage the next Congress to work on legislation to address climate change and its consequences.

The Citizen’s Climate Lobby has worked for years to advance a plan that would tax carbon at its source. The Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act described above is an implementation of this type of plan. A recent article on the VOX website, “The 5 most important questions about carbon taxes, answered” is a good overview of carbon taxes. I’ve always thought the carbon fee and dividend was a good idea but didn’t believe Congress would approve. But as the consequences of climate change can no longer be ignored, and with new members of Congress like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, perhaps there is hope.

The Guardian has a Carbon Countdown Clock that shows an estimate of how long it will take to reach the greenhouse gas emissions beyond which global warming above 2 degrees Centigrade will likely occur, and that is rapidly approaching, which is currently about 18 years.

“The climate scientists I spoke to also noted that quickly transitioning to renewable energy wouldn’t be enough to completely solve the climate crisis, because we’ve already emitted so much carbon dioxide and will continue to inevitably for at least two decades. (You can’t take all the cars off the road at once.) “The heat-trapping greenhouse gases already in the atmosphere will remain there for at least a century and cause additional impacts,” Francis said. “For this reason, the plan to convert to renewable energy sources must be accompanied by efforts and resources to develop technology that can remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, along with a carbon fee to discourage further extraction and burning of fossil fuels.” A comprehensive climate change plan must also account for adaptation to those inevitable impacts. After all, “Climate change is already with us and costing billions per year,” Trenberth noted.”  “Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Ambitious Plan to Save the Planet” by Emily Atkin in The New Republic.

The obvious solution is for each of us to dramatically reduce our own fossil fuel consumption. Like many others with access to mass transportation, I lived for 40 years without owning a car. The automobile industry is in trouble because fewer young people are buying cars. We can continue to advocate for increased mass transit, increased renewable energy capacity, and better designed communities.
I fear we will not much longer have access to fossil fuels as our infrastructure is destroyed and governments are overwhelmed by increasingly violent storms, higher temperatures and drought, water and food insecurity, and rising sea levels. We can work to design simple and sustainable communities.

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