New York state is making a commendable effort to reduce fossil fuel use by slowly reshaping the economy to be able to operate efficiently with cleaner sources of energy. But a proposal in Albany to increase the price of a gallon of gas by 55 cents next year would be too much too soon.
The state is aiming to cut greenhouse emissions by 85% by 2050 from 1990 levels, and taxes on carbon should be one of the many methods to help the state reach its long-term clean energy goals. To that end, a bill currently being debated would add a carbon tax for users of fossil fuels as a means of both generating revenue and nudging individuals, schools and businesses to make the switch to alternate sources of energy.
A big drawback, however, would be a sudden and sharp increase in the price of gasoline and home heating fuel that critics say would hit those least able to afford it the hardest.
With New York's economy slowly rebounding, this is no time to try to force consumers struggling to make ends meet to invest in more efficient heating systems and electric cars. Encouraging the use of mass transit is also a great idea, but it doesn't do any good for people in rural upstate, where commuting by car is most often the only choice available.
State Sen. Pam Helming this week urged other lawmakers to join her in opposition to "a regressive tax that would impact seniors and lower income New Yorkers the most," and we hope that they do.
The overall goal of this type of legislation is laudable and necessary, and the talking points it raises are a great addition to the overall conversation about fossil fuels, greenhouse gas emissions and where to go from here. But big changes can't be expected overnight, and it is too much to ask taxpayers to take on a big increase in gasoline and home heating fuel costs under such a short timeline.
The Citizen editorial board includes publisher Michelle Bowers, executive editor Jeremy Boyer and managing editor Mike Dowd.