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Voluntary Recession

An oil tax may help resolve our problems.

August 6, 2009
Chris Mintzel, CEO of Clean Energy Maui LLC
Although we are experiencing a recession and the world economy is seemingly headed for disaster, one hope remains. That hope is the clean energy economy. Not only could it help us eliminate global warming, it also is the only industry experiencing ongoing growth.

A clean energy economy is, however, being seriously held back by the artificially cheap price of fossil fuels. Why do I say artificially? Because oil and coal prices don’t reflect the enormous environmental and security costs borne by society. If these costs were taken into account, gas and electricity prices would increase—giving rise to immediate clean energy solutions, which would become profitable.

Imagine an oil tax (gasp) of $250 per barrel. This tax would give us $9 gasoline and $200 electricity bills. Gas at $9 a gallon would bring us smaller cars, less driving and more telecommuting—just like in Europe where it is priced at over $10.

High-priced oil produced electricity would make photovoltaic (PV) panels and wind farms look like a bargain, and we would become very excited about each and every development in efficiency technology.

This excitement would then drive huge investments into solar, wind and efficiency technologies and create a humming, clean energy sector with large employment figures. Soon, stock prices would go up and increase the value of all these new companies and their installations. Within a few years, they may be valued at $20 trillion, thereby buoying our economy, environment and health.

Not only that, a $250 oil tax would net 1.8 trillion dollars per year. Together with a similar tax on coal, this would be enough money to abolish all income taxes and pay for healthcare for everybody.

Unfortunately, the knee-jerk reaction to taxes is to reject them right away. Politicians know that. Gov. Linda Lingle just vetoed a $1 oil tax, and the cap-and-trade legislation is facing an uphill battle in the U.S. Congress.

We could institute an oil tax to eliminate taxes, global warming and the recession, but our politicians are not able to even talk about it.

And that’s why the recession is voluntary.

Chris Mentzel, CEO of Clean Energy Maui LLC, consults with county and state governments in Hawai‘i to secure a quick transition to a clean energy future. He is also the chairman of South Maui Sustainability’s renewable energy committee.

His goal is to end oil use on Maui by 2020. He can be reached through or at 214-7678.

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