By Dennis Sienko

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The great economist Thomas Sowell said:

“Much of the social history of the Western world over the past three decades has involved replacing what worked with what sounded good.”

There have been many proposals to better our society that sound good and make people feel good, but do not do any good. One of the most common current such “Feel-Good Folly” proposals is to tax carbon emissions. This would be an indirect tax on energy. Everything we create and do and drive and wear and eat would be taxed indirectly by this carbon tax. While there are alternatives to producing energy by burning fossil fuels, none of them, save possibly nuclear power, are remotely capable of producing anywhere near the energy we now get from fossil fuels at anywhere near the cost of producing energy from fossil fuels. None of these alternatives can substitute entirely for fossil fuels.

Such a tax would damage our society dramatically by raising the cost of energy. The idea that the revenues from a carbon tax would be re-distributed to people to offset the increase is fraught with difficulty. Remember the debacle of Oregon and its Obamacare website? Do you want to repeat that mess? Do you think the state of Oregon will do a significantly better job of re-distributing the vast sums of money generated by a carbon tax?

Putting aside the disputed and unverifiable argument made by some scientists that the world is warming because the proportion of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere has increased from three one-hundredths of a percent to four one hundredths of a percent over the past century, there remain arguments against a tax on carbon that are insurmountable.

A carbon tax would put Oregon producers of products that are exported from Oregon at a disadvantage compared to other producers of those same products. How will that affect the financial health of those companies that produce products for export from Oregon and, consequently, the employees of those companies?

The real problem of a carbon tax is that it would not have any effect on the climate. The United States population is about 320 million people. Oregon is about one-eightieth of that total. The world population is about 8 billion people. China and India, both in the process of developing energy resources by using fossil fuels, mainly coal, have about 1.4 billion people each. China currently produces about twice as much carbon dioxide as the United States. India and the European Union are not far behind the United States production of carbon dioxide. The United States produces about one-sixth of the total annual world production of carbon dioxide. The United States is currently reducing its production of carbon dioxide by substituting natural gas for coal to produce energy. All the other countries of the world are currently increasing their production of carbon dioxide. Any reduction in carbon dioxide production caused by a carbon tax would be offset by increases elsewhere.

A carbon tax would have no effect on the total world production of carbon dioxide.

The idea that taxing carbon will have any effect on Earth’s climate is “Feel-Good Folly.” People who have a need to feel good about “doing something” about the alleged warming of Earth should ride their bicycles, keep their homes cooler in winter and warmer in summer and whatever else works for them to feel good and forget about getting government to mandate expensive folly on others.

— Dennis Sienko lives in Bend.