DR. PETER BEARSE, Independent Candidate for Congress in New Hampshire's 1st Congressional District, stressed that to honor the goals of Earth Day, the traditional "green" emphasis of the day needs to move to focus what we need to do as citizens of the earth to reduce the huge "carbon footprint" of our actions -- to fight global warming and climate change. These actions, in turn, need to honor individual liberty and choice to the max.
They lie at two levels. Both emphasize the importance of individual decisions. One, the so-called Carbon Tax, is at the macro-level of state and national political decisions; the other, at the strictly individual level of choices of what to do and to buy.
The Carbon Tax is misnamed. It is not a "tax;" it is a fee of $15-30 per ton of the carbon content of products or pollution. Such a charge would provide an efficient incentive for us to reduce the emissions of the leading greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide, into the atmosphere. The price system would work Products that are larger sources of carbon emissions would cost more. So here, too, individual choices come into play as buyers seek alternatives. Fee revenues can and should be invested in alternative energy sources.
By contrast, the "cap and trade" system increasingly touted in the media is a highly bureaucratic and inefficient way with serious implementation problems. It also favors large corporate interests over individual choice. Do you think you can earn a carbon credit that you can trade for real money by planting a tree?
As individuals in a free and open society, we bear a great deal of responsibility for our actions. Just as we can choose to buy "Made in America" or "Made in China", we can choose to buy products that have a high or low carbon footprint. Better choices may involve paying higher prices for some products, but each purchase would involve a degree of investment -- in a better future, not just present-day consumption. The American way emphasizes individual choice through a free market economy, not heavy-handed government actions. The role of the government is to provide, or require private companies to provide, better information or otherwise enable better private decisions. The case of the warning labels on cigarette packs is a classic example.
So, here on Earth Day in the only "Live Free or Die" state, let us reflect on the two levels required for better private decisions to conserve the Earth we all share:
- 1. "Macro": A national "Manhattan Project" a crash program to reduce our over-dependence on petroleum products and promote alternative sources of energy.
- 2. Increased sensitivity to the consequences of our individual or family buying decisions and making changes in response -- like more walking or biking, less riding, turning down our thermostats or less reliance upon our air conditioners, insulating our homes, shifting to alternative sources, buying new cars car with maximum gas mileage, etc.
As for myself, as a member of National Arbor Day, I'm planting a tree -- with no hope of earning carbon credits.
PETER BEARSE, Ph.D., on Earth Day
Released by Supporters of Peter Bearse for Congress on April 22, 2007