Carbon tax or user-pays?

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Dispatches from the 148 by Fred Ryan

So much of politics today is "instant confrontation". Every initiative seems designed to set up conflict – Right vs Left, them vs us, Grits vs Tories, French-English, and now East -West. This is not efficient, nor fair, government.

Dispatches from the 148 by Fred Ryan

So much of politics today is "instant confrontation". Every initiative seems designed to set up conflict – Right vs Left, them vs us, Grits vs Tories, French-English, and now East -West. This is not efficient, nor fair, government.
Conflict rarely ends well for anyone. Conflicts do not lead to solutions or mutual undertakings; conflict leads to a hardening of positions, of historical grievances, and to a disregard of tradition, history and, even, science.
Maybe this is normal in a democracy, where everyone has a say, in theory. But conflicts make common goals more difficult to attain. They mean the conflict will continue. Much of this has to do with the party system; competing parties virtually require conflicts, require winners and losers. 
Take the challenge of dealing with climate change. Positions are confrontational right from the start. One side actually questions the science behind climate change, whereas the other wants to throw the blame on a few easily identified targets – oil and gas, carbon emissions.  Carbon emissions have a measurable reality, and they implicate consumers who burn gasoline. The solutions require the participation of everyone, not just oil companies and their employees. Those of us putting gas in our tanks are actors, too; we’re pulling the climate-change trigger with each fill-up.
How to approach this crisis more collaboratively, with less confrontation?
For example, two words, "carbon tax" turn any discussion upside-down in a flash. Even the goal of "banning" coal, oil and fracked gas is counterproductive. Instead of banning carbon-producing inputs – instead of banning anything – couldn’t we insist that all this has to be put on a user-pay basis? The cost of energy must include all its costs – without any carbon tax. A carbon tax is a lightning rod for so many people, yet most of them would support the concept of "user pays".
The cost of oil includes the real costs to us all, starting from planning and exploration all the way to final clean-up and remediation measures. No carbon tax, but carbon users must pay for the pollution they generate, based on objective, scientifically-determined costs. Applying a ban merely generates a hostile reaction. Legislating limits and fees ends up with people and regions fighting the federal government (not fighting climate change), and we end up with a lot of people absolutely distrusting all government. We end up with a Trump.
The alternative is to say to these folks, "Mr Individualist, yes, you are free to do whatever you wish (within the law) but understand that you must pay for all consequences, especially the pollution clean-up. Burn all the oil you want – but you have to pay for the resulting mess.” No carbon tax necessary; that’s a red flag to a bull.
"User pays" is often the banner of the Right, of anti-big government movements. So can’t we ask they apply their own user-pay rules to their own actions? How can they object? We are not insisting they do anything other than cleaning up any mess resulting from their free actions.
Frankly, too, they might end up asking for a carbon tax – it’s much cheaper
than cleaning up the old wells, and tailing ponds, and remedying the health crisis from the pollution caused to water and air by extraction and by burning.
I understand carbon taxes would have to be much, much higher to actually cover the costs generated by our carbon use.
As for fairness, the user-pays policy applies to all energy sources, not just oil. It means, incidentally, that nuclear power becomes the most expensive energy, given the costs of design and testing and especially the astronomical costs of dealing with the resulting radioactive waste. There’s no longer a "tax", but
merely the rational costs of production and clean-up; who could object to paying that?