Orwellian or Green? Carbon Taxes on Individuals

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Vote below. But first, this news ...

The Dutch government wants to tax residents for every mile they drive to cut down on carbon dioxide emissions. The new green tax would replace taxes on the sales and ownership of autos, AFP reports.

"Each vehicle will be equipped with a GPS device that tracks how many kilometers are driven and when and where," the transport ministry said in a statement. "This data will be then be sent to a collection agency that will send out the bill."

Wouldn't it be easier to just tax gas, on the assumption that one needs more of it to drive farther?

Meanwhile, the head of the Environment Agency in Britain thinks everyone should get a "carbon allowance" and be penalized if the exceed their limit, The Telegraph reports.

Everyone would get a carbon account statement, like a bank statement (electronic, not paper, we presume), and when their carbon account hits zero, they'd have to buy more credits. But that would mean calculating carbon footprints for everything people buy — a complex and costly task that puts this idea into the "we'll get it going in about 20 years" category.

And some think it's going to far in terms of tracking what individuals do:

"This is all about control of the individual and you begin to wonder whether this is what the green agenda has always been about. It's Orwellian," Ruth Lea, an economist from Arbuthnot Banking Group. "This will be an enormous tax on business."

Other efforts to apply carbon taxes to cut emissions are aimed at businesses and industry. Though the ideas has long been resisted, you might be surprised at where support for that it comes from lately. An Exxon official recently said his company wants a climate policy that creates "certainty and predictability, which is why we advocate a carbon tax."

In The Water Cooler, Editorial Director Robert Roy Britt looks at what people are talking about in the world of science and beyond. Find more in the archives and on Twitter.

Robert Roy Britt

Robert is an independent health and science journalist and writer based in Phoenix, Arizona. He is a former editor-in-chief of Live Science with over 20 years of experience as a reporter and editor. He has worked on websites such as Space.com and Tom's Guide, and is a contributor on Medium, covering how we age and how to optimize the mind and body through time. He has a journalism degree from Humboldt State University in California.