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The Baltimore Sun

Carbon tax could be key to 'sustainability'

Bob Doppelt's column "Let's think sustainably" (Commentary, Sept. 9) argues that to tackle global warming, we must shift to "sustainable thinking" and should recognize how our choices about what we consume result in direct and indirect emissions of greenhouse gases. He claims that the climate problem is, at its core, one of vision, not flawed policy.

Yet he fails to mention the only policy that could effectively encourage us to think sustainably: a tax on carbon. Under such an approach, if I buy an item that has a large "carbon footprint," it would automatically be more expensive. What better way to grab our attention and motivate us to look for low-carbon alternatives?

The revenues from that tax could be used to reduce other taxes - for example, those that penalize labor and thus increase unemployment and drag down economic growth.

A cap-and-trade policy on carbon emissions from the power sector would be only a partial answer to the problem because only two-fifths of our country's emissions come from generating electricity.

Pushing groups to plan sustainably, as Mr. Doppelt suggests, would yield only spotty emissions reductions compared with a systematic tax.

It's time we recognize that taxing "bads" rather than "goods" can direct the economy to greater sustainability and efficiency and that global warming is indeed at its heart a policy problem.

Benjamin F. Hobbs, Baltimore

The writer is a professor of environmental management at the Whiting School of Engineering at the Johns Hopkins University.

Conservation truly puts 'country first'

Former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani may say, "Drill, baby, drill." I say, "Conserve, baby, conserve" ("As gas prices fall, will we go back to guzzling?" Sept. 9).

The price of a barrel of oil is dropping, and OPEC is cutting back on its production to keep the price from declining further. This is a result of the decrease in demand of almost 1 million barrels a day by the United States alone as a result of higher fuel costs.

We don't need to drill for more oil. We only need to begin to conserve now.

If each individual strives to decrease the use of fossil fuels in his or her daily life, we can keep decreasing our demand for oil until the available alternative technologies are further developed and fully ready for the market.

We can lessen our demand for oil now by emphasizing conservation and getting aggressive about alternative fuel sources and innovations such as hybrid cars or all-electric cars.

I say let's put "Country First" and start conserving now.

Steve Devon, Baltimore

GOP again strives to intimidate press

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin finally deigned to grant an interview to a member of the press, but only to a reporter deemed to be properly deferential ("Palin says 'perhaps' on chance of war with Russia," Sept. 12). And I feel like I'm having d?j? vu.

Before the Iraq war, the Bush administration attacked anyone who asked tough questions as unpatriotic. Now anyone who asks inconvenient questions about Mrs. Palin's record is dismissed as sexist or disrespectful

The labels have changed, but the playbook for bullying and controlling the press is the same.

But if you can't deal with reporters and hard topics, how can you deal with world leaders?

Will she have the luxury of getting 10 days of coaching during a world crisis?

The choice of a vice president is a vital matter. We need a candidate who can answer hard questions and stand up to scrutiny.

Hank Barru, Glen Burnie

The writer is a volunteer for Sen. Barack Obama's presidential campaign.

Obama also lacks needed experience

The writer of the letter "Don't let hockey mom ascend to the presidency" (Sept. 10) asked whether voters would want a hockey mom with no international experience in charge of the nuclear button.

In doing so, he raises the question: Why would this be in any way worse than having our arsenal controlled by a senator with no international experience and with a history of lacking the courage and conviction to vote on many of the bills in his own state legislature?

Tim Marshallsay, Baltimore

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