Tax Cuts: Do you want yours to go to your wealthy neighbors or into clean energy?

February 23,2001

By Jock Gill for


One of the cornerstones of being a 21st Century Democrat will have to be a forward looking energy policy. In the same peculiar way President Bush is exploiting a weakening economy to build support for his tax cut proposals, he is using the California energy crisis to justify accelerating our relentless addiction to petroleum. The American people know that neither are right. Instead, they are looking for us to explain what is happening now and what opportunities are truly presented. They don’t want to follow Bush down the path of tax breaks for the wealthy and they most certainly do not want to see environmental protections weakened so we can devistate the natural beauty of Alaska for the sake of servicing our oil and gas habit for a few more weeks.

Paul Epstein of the Harvard Medical School is trying to get us to look up from our emptying gas tanks and take a look down the road we’re on. He’s one of a number of citizens calling for tax incentives for energy conservation and investments in clean energy technologies that can liberate us from the unstable and unsustainable dependence on fossil fuels.

Writing in the Boston Globe, Epstein correctly frames the decision before us:

“During the 20th century, cars, planes, and computers helped drive development. This century technologies for energy conservation and clean energy generation can become the engine of growth. New products for green buildings, solar, wind, hybrid cars, and fuel cells are all waiting to be launched en masse. The proper financial ''carrots'' could jump-start a self-sustaining conversion as the global demand and production of such Americans have a special responsibility here. The United States is the mightiest nation on the planet and the greatest contributor to the industrial component of global warming. The nation is wealthy and at peace. A mature approach would require certain sacrifices designed to provide a better environment for future generations of Americans and a more equitable relationship with neighbors around the world.”

His analysis and call-to-action is supported by Bob Herbert, who in his New York Times column this week talked about a report issued earlier this week by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The report points out that yet again this problem has its origin in the habits of the wealthy developed world, but the bill is going to be paid by poor inhabitants in the developing world. They lack the resources to defend themselves against climate change and the money necessary to create new alternatives.

Herbert and Epstein are right; now is the time for us to invest in creating a sustainable future. The alternative, as Epstein writes:

“ to just ignore the problem and continue to feast like gluttons at the table of the world's resources. That will work for awhile. Why not? All you have to do is convince yourself that damaging the planet is somebody else's problem.”

Clearly there are ideas to get excited about and to celebrate. Breaking our addiction to fossil fuels would be a huge achievement that would change the course of history. What better way to use a significant part of our so called “surplus”.

If you agree, please help spread the word. Contact your elected officials TODAY and tell them you want your tax cut to fight global warming and break our addiction to carbon based energy. It is also a great issue on which to draw a clear distinction between Republicans and Democrats, and between a short term quick fix and a long term strategic vision for the United States and the world.