The real costs of fossil fuels

Re: Gary Wolfram’s July 8 column “Forget sound bites, ask candidates about energy”: I applaud Wolfram for worrying about the impact of energy policy on the poor. He wants to protect fossil fuel infrastructure to protect jobs and household economies.

But he is not factoring in all the costs of fossil fuels. Detroit has a refinery, and an asthma rate three times the national average. In 2013, petcoke dust filled the air. Detroit is already planning for extreme heat and flooding. Fossil fuels have enormous externalized costs in health and climate damage, and guess who pays?

Rather than hope for cheap gas and coal in the short term, we must correct the free market failure that has unfairly favored fossil fuels for over a century. The best way to do that is carbon fee and dividend. It’s a policy that was created by economist George Shultz, and is praised by Jerry Taylor of the Niskanen Center and by macroeconomist Greg Mankiw. It’s market-based, creates jobs, grows GDP and protects the poor.

Carbon fee and dividend places a steadily rising upstream fee on all fossil fuels, and recycles the income right back to American households in the form of a per capita monthly dividend check. Everyone gets cash to cope with rising prices. An independent study by REMI (Regional Economic Models, Inc.) showed that two-thirds of the population, those with lower incomes, will come out ahead.

Within just 20 years, we create 2.8 million high-quality jobs even as we drop emissions by 52 percent, and drop the death toll by 13,000 a year. Now that’s savings.

Tamara Kellogg, M.D.

Cambridge, Mass.