Accounting for the True Cost of Energy
Matthew L. Wald, NY Times, November 7, 2007
On Thursday, a Senate subcommittee approved a bill to establish a cap-and-trade system for carbon dioxide, and the Democratic leadership is eager to have the Senate pass it by year’s end. But prospects in the House are less certain. Carbon dioxide is what economists call an “externality,” something that imposes a cost on somebody other than the manufacturer. At some point, the thinking goes, Congress will force industries to pay those costs, either with a tax or a cap-and-trade system in which allowances will cost money. Cost for fuels that result in hefty emissions, like coal and oil, as well as "closet carbon" fuels like corn-based ethanol, would likely increase. And some — sunlight, wind, uranium, even corn stalks and trash, as well as natural gas — would probably cost much less.
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