The Aug. 24 Auburn Citizen article “Do coal and nuclear need a helping hand? 5 essential reads” states “how policies should guide the future of the grid – and specifically which fuel sources should be used – is a highly contentious question.”
True, and it’s a question that should not be left to politicians, lobbyists or even popular sentiment to answer. Economists are in general agreement that the kinds of government subsidies discussed in the article are at best an inefficient tool to identify the “correct” energy mix to address climate change. At worst they are ineffective and, from a tax standpoint, they are regressive. Subsidies are also ineffective in incentivizing conservation and efficiency improvements which must also be a component of a responsible energy policy as it relates to climate change.
There is a broad consensus among experts that a carbon tax is the single most effective policy tool for mitigating greenhouse gas emissions. The government should establish a gradually increasing fee on fossil fuels that reflect the costs that burning those fuels imposes on the broader society and return the revenues to households. Then step aside and let the market determine the optimal energy mix used in the electric utility sector and for other sectors of our economy as well.
Thomas is the group leader for the Syracuse Chapter of Citizens' Climate Lobby