Hypocrisy and the Climate Action Tax
It was interesting to watch Leonardo Di Caprio’s impassioned plea to his colleagues to help reduce global warming at the Oscars. His audience probably has the highest percentage use of private jets in the world. Harrison Ford alone owns five. John Travolta also has five, including a 707.
Leonardo took six private jet trips in just six weeks last year, including one to the Cannes Film Festival. These jets produce up to one ton of CO2 per hour. One trip would exceed the total CO2 produced by the average African in a year.
In Aspen, not counting air taxis, there were 14,060 trips by general aviation aircraft in 2014. If only 50 percent of those were private jets and one assumed a conservative number of two-hour flights for each operation, those flights would have produced about two tons of CO2 per flight, resulting in a total of 14,000 tons of CO2 emissions.
President Obama’s Earth Day trip to the Florida Everglades to discuss global warming produced more than 90 tons of CO2 emissions, according to EPA calculations. That is the equivalent of burning 88,000 pounds of coal or 190 barrels of oil. Certainly the president’s trips in one year will produce more CO2 emissions than the Carbondale Clean Air initiative would save in 20 years.
I want the air, water and earth to be clean. I think we should all do our part, but it is difficult for me to accept that it is as much of a priority as some would have us believe when their actions are considerably different than their words.
For as long as I can remember, there have been doomsday prophets. When I was at CU, I attended a lecture by Professor Paul Ehrlich who wrote the bestseller “The Population Bomb.” He showed how exponential growth in population of the Earth would lead to massive starvation within 10 or 20 years. That was in 1966.
I believed most of what Ehrlich said. The math made sense. Earth has a finite capacity for production of food and a finite amount of water. What Ehrlich miscalculated was the timing. I still believe overpopulation by humans is the root cause of most pollution and that a crisis, particularly in water, is looming. However, I imagine that crisis will come later rather than sooner as humans have a remarkable ability to adapt to the environment.
Returning to the question of climate change and the Carbondale tax, I am certain that almost every voter wants clean air, water and a stable climate. However, paying a tax will do little or nothing to accomplish that. From what I understand, how the Carbondale Town Council will use the money is uncertain.
The 2005 Carbondale Clean Energy Plan set lofty goals with no mention of funding from taxes. It was an admirable plan, and included energy staffing. Bureaucrats and politicians seem to be enamored with hiring more bureaucrats. It is my understanding that at least part of the climate tax money will be spent on hiring staff or consultants.
That begs the question, after the 2005 Initiative, which apparently included energy staffing, why is more staff needed? It seems that Carbondale has done an admirable job of meeting the 2005 Clean Energy Plan without increasing staff or taxes.
In order to further reduce emissions and pollution, continue to encourage everyone to lower their thermostats in the winter, open windows in the summer, walk or bike as much as possible instead of driving, and use the bus. From my experience with the bus, it seems considerable emissions could be reduced by downsizing the Carbondale Circulator to a hybrid 12-passenger van. That big, blue bus seldom seems to have more than three or four passengers.
Maybe, instead of taxing single moms and retired folks on Social Security, the city fathers could convince Harrison Ford or John Travolta or Leonardo to forgo one of their private jet trips and instead take an old-fashioned airliner, giving the carbon credits thus produced to the city. Probably one trip in one of those jets would produce more carbon emissions than Carbondale could possibly save in 20 years by the Climate Action Tax.
Again, I think all of us are in favor of clean air and water. Most of us respect the beautiful place in which we are fortunate enough to live and want to maintain it that way. Most of us would gladly spend a few more dollars to preserve that, but we have to be skeptical about the way the city will use the money. We have to be concerned about more taxes in a city that currently has the highest mill rate in Garfield County. Thus, vote no on the Climate Action Tax on April 5.
Roland McLean, an Aspen Glen resident, is a University of Colorado graduate, Navy veteran and retiree after more than 30 years in international construction. He will become a regular Post Independent columnist, appearing on the fourth Thursday of each month.