What do you think of this environmental proposal, GW?

There are many things companies do that are negative externalities, but that don't by themselves do anything completely irreversible. Even AGW activists agree that greenhouse gas emissions are something that Earth's systems can tolerate a certain amount of, but the same goes for most forms of pollution--even acutely toxic ones, such as mercury, as long as emissions levels aren't too high. Likewise for other environmental damage--clear-cutting, driving in sensitive areas, and so on.

The trick is how to keep emissions and other activities in check, and/or clean up any "messes". Preferably without having to micromanage human behavior unduly.

Rather than mandatory, universal limits for certain emissions types (et al), we could assess and calculate *all* of the environmental and human damage from a given unit of emissions--for example, from a single pound of mercury, or a single ton of CO2--assuming expected total emissions levels. Include the cost of remediation/restoration, if it is possible, as well as of any probable health effects, property damage, et al from any remaining damage. Include damage to ecosystem services such as water purification, likely as the cost of replacing those services with artificial substitutes. Be generous, though not absurdly so, in calculating these costs. Tack on a bit more, maybe 10%, for administration. Recalculate every 5-10 years, to reflect changes in technology, new understanding of risks, et cetera. If location is relevant (eg ...

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near vs not near aquifers), alter fees to reflect this.

Replace all laws explicitly prohibiting or limiting specific emissions types (other than acute dangers to human life or the like) with the fees calculated above. Instead of, for example, requiring that mercury emissions be kept below a certain level, simply charge emitters the calculated amount for every pound of mercury they emit. Use the funds to do any possible remediation, as well as to pay for any increased health costs, reparations

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for any property damage, etc. Do much the same for things like laws against logging in public lands (barring endangered species or specific scenic or otherwise "functional" areas). For damages from cars and other relatively diffuse environmental damages, assess the fee at the "top", divided between the manufacturer or importer, and the gas sellers (or equivalents), based on predicted normal use. For pollution from imported goods, the fee or part of it can be included as a tariff, if/to the...

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extent that the pollution in question is global rather than local.

If anyone tries to evade the fees and is discovered, charge them a multiple of the normal fee (depending on how likely they are to reoffend, if they probably evaded the fees without discovery in the past, and so on) as a fine. Don't allow them to duck it through bankruptcy, someone is getting arrested and/or having all their future wages garnished or something. (likewise for the fees, though with more lenience)

This gives...

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manufacturers a clear, strong signal of how bad a negative externality is, and makes them pay for it, without micro-managing them. If a business can't be profitable when paying the pollution fee, it can either figure out ways to pollute less, or go out of business. But, for example, instead of requiring a coal plant that emits too much to take a specific action, you increase the costs. The owner of the plant can decide whether to upgrade, close and replace it, or simply pay the fee for their

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emissions. And you don't end up with, for example, the trap of older plants that want to make small upgrades reluctant to make them, because those changes would remove their "grandfathering" and require them to be brought all the way up to code.

What are everyone's thoughts about this proposal? Would you vote for it? Would you change it in any way? Any other thoughts?

(I *swear* they used to give us more room...)

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