Tax Breaks For, and Taxes Upon, Polluters
Healing Earth -- a Big Job But There's Progress
The damage humans have done to life on Earth is staggering but some of us push workable solutions. We trim, blend, and append six 2012 articles from: (1) BBC, Jun 25, by G. Watson; (2) CBD, on seahorses; (3) SignOn.Org, on whales; (4) Spiegel Online, Jun 27, on plastic, by K. Allen; (5) Clawback, Jul 3, on cracking by L. Mcilvaine; and (6) New York Times, Jly 4, on taxes by Y. Bauman (a standup comedian who came to one of our parties) and S-L Hsu.
by Greig Watson, by Kristen Allen, by Center for Biological Diversity, by SignOn.Org, by Leigh Mcilvaine, and by Yoram Bauman & Shi-Ling Hsu
Polluted Legacy: Repairing Britain's Damaged Landscapes
The Industrial Revolution, which made Britain the powerhouse of the world in the 19th Century, has left a legacy of environmental problems.
It continues to pollute drinking water, poison rivers, and threaten flooding, and in the process it fuels climate change and affects huge swathes of the modern landscape.
The mining of lead, tin, and other metals is thought to have contaminated nearly 2,000 miles of waterways. Estimated repair costs run into the hundreds of millions.
So profound has the impact of pollution been on some landscapes that they have given rise to unusual mixes of plants and wildlife -- now officially protected in their current state.
Recent attempts to undo some of this have made notable headway.
To read more
JJS: The problem of pollution has spread to everywhere.
Help Protect Delicate Dwarf Seahorses
The smallest seahorse in America, the dwarf seahorse faces big problems: water quality degradation in the Gulf of Mexico, pollution from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and cleanup and, most importantly, loss of seagrass habitat. Boat propellers, shrimp trawlers, and ocean acidification all harm seagrass.
Dwarf seahorses are habitat specialists, so as seagrasses disappear, they do too. More than 50 percent of Florida seagrasses have been destroyed since 1950, and in some areas losses are as steep as 90 percent.
Dwarf seahorses form monogamous pair bonds, and every morning they meet to perform a greeting dance. As with other seahorses, females place scores of eggs inside the males’ pouches, and the males then give birth to even tinier versions of adults.
To read more
JJS: Even when they know they’re hurting others, if they’re powerful they do it anyway.
Navy to Deafen 15,900 Whales and Dolphins and Kill 1,800
According to their estimates, the Navy’s use of high frequency underwater sound for testing in Hawaii, the California and Atlantic Coasts, and the Gulf of Mexico will deafen more than 15,900 whales and dolphins and kill 1,800 more over the next 5 years. Whales and dolphins depend on sound to navigate and live. A petition could potentially saving the lives of these ocean creatures.
To read more
JJS: So what can you do?
Austrian Family Lives a Life Without Plastic
Imagine living without plastic. No computer, no mobile phone, no car, and no pre-packaged food. One Austrian family decided to go without.
Some 240 million tons continue to be produced each year, clogging up landfills, polluting the ocean, and leaching carcinogens and other substances dangerous to human health. Most plastic is also made from petroleum -- a non-renewable resource -- using energy-intensive production methods that tax the environment even further.
The family used wooden-handled toothbrushes, metal milk canisters, and product packaging made of glass, paper, or metal. For toilet paper they substituted recycled paper towels used by many restaurants and public bathrooms.
They reduced their plastic waste to "almost nothing."
Buying food not prepackaged in plastic is fresher, often organic, an claims a larger portion of the family budget. But this has been offset by lower general consumption.
To read more
JJS: Doing what you can means not just lifestyle changes but also includes reforming public revenue policies: subsidies, tax breaks, and taxes.
Shell “Cracks” Pennsylvania’s Tax Code
Corporate tax credits awarded to Royal Dutch Shell worth 1.7 billion became law -- one of the largest subsidy packages ever awarded to an individual company in the United States.
The legislation did not name Shell but limited the new credit of 5 cents for each gallon of output to ethane refineries that create at least 2,500 jobs and make a capital investment of $1 billion, which is what Shell plans to do.
The final signed law contains no annual or cumulative cap on the total value of credits that “crackers” can claim, meaning the cost may be even larger than the original proposal.
Because the Shell cracker will be located inside a virtually tax-free Keystone Opportunity Zone, the immediate value of its state tax credits will be derived from selling them to other firms for an estimated 15 years.
The state changed an existing KOZ boundary to accommodate Shell’s project.
To read more
JJS: While one government gives polluters a tax break, another gives polluters a tax choice.
The Most Sensible Tax of All
British Columbia’s carbon tax -- a tax on the carbon content of all fossil fuels burned in the province -- has increased from $25 to $30 per metric ton of carbon dioxide.
Meanwhile, British Columbia cut its corporate income tax rate to 10 percent from 12 percent, a rate that is among the lowest in the Group of 8 wealthy nations. Personal income taxes for people earning less than $119,000 per year are now the lowest in Canada.
And there are targeted rebates for low-income and rural households.
Data show that BC greenhouse gas emissions are down 4.5 percent even as population and gross domestic product have been growing. Sales of motor gasoline have fallen by 2 percent since 2007, compared with a 5 percent increase for Canada as a whole.
The carbon tax gives more control over how much people pay in taxes. Households and businesses could reduce their carbon tax payments by switching to less-polluting vehicles and pursuing countless other innovations.
To read more
JJS: Actually, a tax on pollution is sensible but not nearly the most sensible tax of all. That honor belongs to the tax on land, but even nice people like green economists are too timid to say it.
When owners must pay land taxes or land dues, then they don’t waste land. They quit speculating and turn vacant lots and abandoned buildings into useful structures. That in-fills cities, puts buildings side by side so they leak less heat, and puts more destinations nearer each others. That shortens trip, saves energy, cuts pollution. Plus, it gets urban dwellers to walk, pedal, and ride, which is healthy.
To tax land, you could shift the property tax off buildings, onto locations. Later, you could raise the rate -- and make sure you levy areas blessed with natural resources -- and get rid of taxes on sales and businesses. Finally, you could raise the rate to full market value -- and make sure you levy all pollution and government-granted privileges like corporate charters -- and you could get rid of taxes on earning plus pay citizens a dividend.
It’s called geonomics and it has worked wherever tried.
Check it out. The Renegade Economists radio show interviews an early American Green, Dan Sullivan. To Listen .
Editor Jeffery J. Smith runs the Forum on Geonomics and helped prepare a course for the UN on geonomics. To take the “Land Rights” course, click here .
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