In his July 13 commentary, Jay Ambrose said the Keystone XL pipeline would provide hundreds of thousands of barrels of crude oil every day while adding less than a fraction of 1 percent to our carbon dioxide emissions. How can this massive oil bonanza result in such an insignificant climate impact? And, if stopping Keystone XL will not slow climate change, as Ambrose suggests, what will?
Keystone XL will transport 830,000 barrels of crude per day, but it is a matter of physics that burning it will produce as much carbon dioxide as 50 coal-fired power plants. How can this be less than 1 percent of our carbon emissions? Well it's not. The report Ambrose uses assumes the oil will be burned with or without the pipeline so doesn't include the carbon dioxide that will be spewed into our air from burning it.
It is a simple fact that carbon dioxide in the atmosphere traps heat. In excess, it makes our weather extreme and our oceans acidic.
The good news is that peer-reviewed science indicates we can economically switch away from fossil fuels. In fact, free-market economics should be moving us in that direction.
The problem is that today's fossil-fuel subsidies and our willingness to let energy companies freely dump carbon dioxide into our air creates a market failure. The companies make the money, and we all pay the cost of using our air as a dump site in the form of disaster relief, homeowners insurance and federally subsidized crop insurance.
The best solution is to correct the market failure with a fee on carbon. In June, I joined 400 members of the Citizens Climate Lobby in Washington, D.C., to build support for a bipartisan, market-based approach to pricing carbon emissions. In total we met with 437 offices of the United States Congress.
The basics of the plan are simple: put a fee on carbon-based fuels; return 100 percent of the revenues directly to households; and include a border adjustment for goods coming in from any nation that does not institute a similar carbon fee.
It is time to reduce our use of carbon-based fuels, not lock into and subsidize a plan like Keystone XL that will increase our use of the world's dirtiest crude by 830,000 barrels a day.