The solution to coal is four easy steps.
1) Eliminate all fossil fuel subsidies. Fossil fuels are cheaper for energy companies to obtain and use because of subsidies. Otherwise, they can't compete with renewables. (Actually, with health and environmental degradation, fossil fuels aren't competing now.) Fossil-fuel companies lobby and contribute big bucks to politicians. In return, politicians stack the deck in favor of the fossil-fuel companies' with subsidies. Check out these lobbying and campaign contributions for 2010 (source: Center for Responsive Politics):.
Electric Utilities: Campaign contributions = $19,878,902; Lobbying = $191,454,085.
Oil and Gas: Campaign contributions = $31,871,839; Lobbying = $146,017,552.
Coal: Campaign contributions = $8,079,948; Lobbying = $18,152,107.
That's a lot of cash. According to Bloomberg, for the years 2002 to 2008, "Government spending and tax breaks amounted to $72.5 billion for fossil fuels and $29 billion for renewable energy . . ." . The same article reports that Obama's stimulus fossil-fuel subsidies are twice that of renewables. What a phenomenal waste of money. Look at the numbers. Those companies don't even get a good return on their dough.
2) Cap and Dividend. Place a cap on emissions, a cap that would assess Draconian fines for the kind of pollution coal emits. Twenty-five percent of the fines go to renewables research, and the rest is distributed evenly as a dividend to anyone who filed a tax return for that year. No new infrastructure would be required, the IRS is already there. The dividend would offset the rise in electricity prices..
3) Tax gasoline another dollar. Watch people ditch their F150's to buy a new Escort. Twenty-five percent of that dollar tax will go to renewables research, the other 75% is distributed evenly as a dividend to anyone who filed a tax return for that year. It's an award system. An evenly distributed dividend would be free money to those who don't use gas, and it would force those who use a lot of gas to maybe change their habits. The higher gas prices would be offset by the dividend.
4) Feed-in tariff (FIT). The FIT concept is difficult to explain, but it's an incentive structure for investment in renewables. FIT's are used in 50 countries, and they're quite successful.
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