Recent news has been abuzz with talks of a carbon tax for the US, such as the Washington Post article, Oil's Swoon Creates the Opening for a Carbon Tax. Largely, this has been a reaction to falling oil prices - raising the question: should we be expected to pay a slightly higher cost for purchasing goods from some of the world's worst polluting companies? Instead of answering this question by consulting the top economists, as major news networks have done, I suggest that we view this through a moral/religious lens.
Let's first address the issue of taxes. According to the Book of Matthew 17:24-27, tax collectors approached Peter and asked, "Doesn't your teacher [Jesus] pay the temple tax?"
"Yes, he does," Peter replied. If paying taxes was good enough for Jesus, it's good enough for me.
If you're looking for further proof, read Romans 13:5-7, in which Paul states clearly our obligation to pay taxes for fear of 'punishment but also because of conscience.'
For conscience! That's it! To hush the turmoil of guilt that resides in our souls when we neglect the 'least of these.' It is our moral obligation to act in a way that promotes prosperity among our fellow humans. A failure to do so is nothing less than a sin.
Do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others -- Philippians 2:4
The case for carbon taxes has long been compelling. With the recent steep fall in oil prices and associated declines in other energy prices, it has become overwhelming. There is room for debate about the size of the tax and about how the proceeds should be deployed. But there should be no doubt that, given the current zero tax rate on carbon, increased taxation would be desirable.
The core of the case for taxation is the recognition that those who use carbon-based fuels or products do not bear all the costs of their actions. Carbon emissions exacerbate global climate change. In many cases, they contribute to local pollution problems that harm human health. Getting fossil fuels out of the ground involves both accident risks and environmental challenges. And even with the substantial recent increases in U.S. oil production, we remain a net importer. Any increase in our consumption raises our dependence on Middle East producers.
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