The Northwest View column Feb. 24 on the cost of coal-based energy asks the right question: do our utility bills properly reflect long-term costs? PSE bills reflect the cost up to the point of use but full costs go well beyond, for example, the health of our environment as well as our own. Also,cleaner energy sources are put at an economic disadvantage.
Coal-based energy can be priced in a better way. One approach taken by British Columbia in 2008 mandates a tax on carbon fuels at the original source. The long-term goal is not only to mitigate environmental effects but also to put various forms of energy on a level economic playing field. Then market forces, not government intervention, determine which energy sources make most sense. Because the government keeps none of these funds this tax is termed "revenue-neutral" allowing B.C. to reduced personal and business taxes, which are now the lowest in Canada. In short, consumers pay more for carbon fuels but get a tax cut in return. A revenue-neutral carbon tax can also take the form of rebates, similar to Alaska, which returns some of the state oil profits to all Alaskans annually.
Is a revenue-neutral carbon tax politically possible? Perhaps. In any case PSE coal-based planning shouldn't ignore the possibility.