In his Dec. 18 column, “Paris pact toothless, depends on voluntary limits on fossil fuels,” M.D. Harmon quoted Paul Ryan saying that he “will continue to focus on an energy policy that promotes America’s abundant natural resources.” Those natural resources include fossil fuels and abundant sunshine and wind, though I believe Ryan was just referring to fossil fuels.

The truth about fossil fuels, agreed upon by all the nations of the world (though not by the U.S. Republican Party), is that they cause air pollution and climate change. Unless we reduce their use, we can expect increases in asthma and other pulmonary disease. In China, where we have exported most of our manufacturing, air pollution causes almost 4,000 premature deaths per day.

Climate change also is causing big changes in the ocean, including the warming and acidification in the Gulf of Maine reported in detail in this newspaper. Both will continue to worsen unless we cut our carbon emissions derived from fossil fuels.

Fossil fuels seem to be cheap energy because we do not include pollution and other environmental and social costs in the price. Rather than celebrating only our abundant fossil fuels, Ryan and Mitch McConnell should lead the charge for a market-based strategy that will signal to investors that now is the time to invest in clean energy, which does not require sacrificing health for a higher standard of living.

Fortunately, conservative economists have come up with a plan that would both stimulate the economy and significantly reduce carbon emissions — and it already has the backing of unlikely corporations such as Exxon Mobil. Carbon fee and dividend places a fee on fossil fuels and returns all of the revenue to the American people.

I urge our legislators, particularly Rep. Bruce Poliquin, R-2nd District, to get behind this practical solution to both air pollution and climate change.

Caroline Karnes


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