Category Archives: Opinion

In Order to Form a More Perfect Union

By Abdullah Siddiki (EE ‘18)

The opinions in this article are those of the author alone and do not represent the views of The Pioneer as a whole.

On September 20, 2016, the Joint Student Council met in the Rose Auditorium to discuss and ratify a new JSC constitution. The meeting started with the authors of the new document, the Constitution Committee, going through the document point by point with the assembly for clarification. The actual content of the constitution was not up for contention until the document was entirely clear.

The rewritten constitution establishes several new principles by which the JSC will operate. Reading through the document you will see the framework for a body that operates on the principles of responsibility, accountability, and transparency. Most importantly though, the document redefines and states a clear goal: the purpose of Joint Student Council.

What does JSC do?
- “I don’t know”
- “Who cares?”
- “They don’t do anything”

Leading up to writing this article, I asked almost anyone and everyone I spoke to this week, “what does the Joint Student Council do?” The responses to this question were somewhat disheartening—a lot of “I don’t know” or “who cares” or my favorite one—“they don’t do anything.” I tried to prod them further to make sure they weren’t being dismissive, but most students truly don’t understand what the JSC is, what it does, and why it is important.

But whose fault is this? Is it the students’ for simply not caring? Is it the JSC’s for not making their purpose clear? Do members of the JSC even know what the body is for? Most likely the only time you heard about JSC in the past few years was when they passed a resolution to make the bathrooms gender neutral, or maybe when they pushed a petition to protest changes in the policy to charge for overloading credits. But these two courses of action seem so wildly different on the surface, so what is the purpose of the JSC? What do they do? Is it really nothing? It’s extremely important that we as a student body think about this and hold those representing us accountable to their responsibilities. One of the most important pillars of a successful and driven organization is a clear mission statement, and the JSC is no exception.

Printed below is the new mission statement outlined in the new JSC constitution. Read it carefully, pick apart every word, and ask questions. Make sure it is clear to you what it means to be represented as a student.

“The Joint Student Council maintains a platform for discussion and takes action in an effort to benefit the student body. In an attempt to manifest the will of the students, the Council hears divergent positions through deliberation, and consequently founds a coherent voice. The Council passes resolutions that pursue policy initiatives concerning the academic, social, and administrative interests of the students. Finally, the Council sustains clear dialogue with the community in the spirit of continued positive change to our institution.”

If you have never thought about it before, or thought about it and lost hope, no time is better than now to reconsider the importance of a representative body on campus. The refreshed mission statement makes it very clear that the JSC exists solely for our benefit as a student body. The JSC is a means for handling student issues and complaints, statements that need to be presented to the administration on behalf of the student body and school-wide changes that need to occur. Their role is to make you heard. It’s time to abandon this thought of “I’m just here to learn.” I’ve heard that a lot from people whom I try to tell that JSC is important—and every single one of them has several complaints about the school. You can’t be here just to learn because it is the very nature of Cooper to be much more than a school. The Cooper Union is a community. It is my community, your community, our community. Invest in it. Take ownership of it. Make it the community you want it to be.

Their role is to make you heard. It’s time to abandon this thought of “I’m just here to learn.”

This is the power of JSC: to represent your interests to the school. And I’ve used this word “represent” a couple of times now, so let’s talk about representation. If you read the article in a previous issue regarding the ratification of the constitution, you will know that perhaps the only heavily contended point was the representation—ten students from Engineering, five from Art, and five from Architecture. What this really means is that there will one be representative per fifty artists, one per fifty engineers, and one per twenty-five architects. The reason that I want to present the representation this way is because it forces you to think about what—or rather whom—the JSC will be representing. The contention at the meeting was whether or not the JSC should have the same number of representatives from each school or representation proportional to the number of students. That’s just the surface of the dispute—let’s look at the core of it.

Should the JSC represent the schools or the students? By choosing to ratify a constitution that mandates representation proportional to the number of students in each school, the JSC has made itself a body representing student interests at the most basic level—your interests as a person. Issues that affect you have never been limited by your major. Tuition hikes, bathroom policies, the presidential search, are all issues that affect you on a personal level. There are already bodies in place to represent your academic interests. The Architecture, Art, and Engineering Student Councils exist. The new mission statement and representation policy of the JSC steers it in a direction where it will become a body that aims chiefly to do its best to represent issues of each student as a human—one with emotions, stresses, ambitions, and not as a label. You are a person before you are an engineer, artist, or architect.

At the meeting there was so much concern about the engineers coming together to block quorum or the artists and architects coming together to block quorum. But consider this: how many issues have been voted on that are representative of contending interests between schools? Call me naïve, or idealistic, but maybe it’s time to stop looking at each other as artists and architects and engineers before we look at each other as our classmates, friends, and at the most fundamental level—humans. Let’s jump this mental hurdle of divisions between the schools. We are of course the Cooper Union. Let’s use this new JSC mentality as a launching point to eradicate whatever prejudices we have amongst the schools and do what another famous constitution did as well—form a more perfect union. ◊

The New Cold War

by Michael Pasternak (ME ’18)

We’re currently at a crossroads, so it’s
important that we stay aware of the situation.

Last week, I briefly described the overall goal of American foreign policy, which as a refresher, is to guarantee stability of our trade and alliances in order to maximize the security and economic prosperity of the United States. In modern times, that’s mostly been driven by an unprecedented global military presence, which has all but eliminated historical norms of piracy and international conflict with sheer force. The world is now our sphere of influence. We consider any disruption to business as usual—economic growth and military stability—as a direct threat to the US.

Meanwhile, Russia has other plans. The foreign policy goals of Russia appear to be to consolidate a buffer of former Soviet satellite states and to keep what is a crumbling domestic and economic situation together via an external enemy. Putin’s largely successful tactic has been two-pronged.

First, he shores up public support with comprehensive propaganda efforts, promoting nationalism and using state run media to spread stories of American involvement in the Russian sphere of influence. For example, it’s the common belief in Russia that America caused the Euromaidan coup which ultimately lead to the invasion of Ukraine by Russia. This allowed Putin to maintain a massive amount of popularity within Russia despite an abysmal economic outlook and performance.

The second part of his strategy is to create buffer zones from chunks of independent post-Soviet states, like Georgia and Ukraine, and expand Russia’s Middle Eastern influence from footholds in Syria and Iran. Putin has been mostly opportunistic, he waits for chaos to break out, then moves in with the excuse that he is restoring order—as with Assad’s regime in Syria—and protecting Russian people and interests—as in Crimea and Eastern Ukraine. (It’s important to note that some of the Russian populations in Eastern Europe were artificially created by the USSR by forcibly relocating local populations further into Russia.)

America has, for nearly a full century, been containing Russia militarily, as it is realistically still the most dangerous power to face in a conventional or—god forbid—nuclear war. Russia has only recently been able to break that containment because America has been so mired in other military operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya. Now the Cold War is creeping back into the geopolitical balance, and the US is faced with Russia as a real threat.

There are a number of schools of thought on exactly how to address the Russian threat. Hillary Clinton is in the war hawk group, who believes only a strongman, aggressive military response will succeed in scaring Russia back into its shell. She proposes a no-fly zone over Syria which would essentially call on Russia to either retreat from Syria as Assad’s air force or face confrontation with US forces. The potential issue is that if Putin calls the no-fly zone as a bluff and his planes are shot down, he has almost no choice but to start a real war against America for control of Syria, which could very well escalate to a nuclear conflict if both countries aren’t careful.

Trump appears to want to befriend Russia and work with them to “defeat ISIS.” The thing is, Russia isn’t fighting ISIS, they’re fighting American-backed anti-Assad rebels. Russia doesn’t care about ISIS; they are relatively unlikely to attack Russia and they are creating enough chaos for Russia to have breathing room globally. So, basically, Trump isn’t even aware of the problem, much less capable of proposing a cogent solution. He also appears to believe that no one in America is aware of the concept of a surprise attack—which is just wrong.

The third school is the one that wants to imitate the winning conditions of the Cold War. We could increase sanctions on Russia and by strong-arming our allies isolate Russia economically until Putin is forced out. That strategy would likely devastate Russia for years to come and economically hurt the world quite a bit but perhaps less than letting Russia off the leash.

We’re currently at a crossroads, so it’s important that we stay aware of the situation and support politicians who are aware of the threat and propose good solutions. For fellow liberals, that solution is likely the third. It will lead to minimal loss of life and an increase in American approval overseas—especially since Russia is one of the few countries more hated than America across the world. ◊

On Foreign Policy

by Anthony Passalacqua (CE ’18)

Mr. Trump’s plan on ISIL is relatively straight-forward,
it goes like this: “if you kill your enemies, they lose.”

I have written previously on nationalism and isolationism, and in that vein, I continue today with Trump’s planned foreign policy. A nationalistic foreign policy, in general, can be summed up as one which uses a country’s resources—especially militarily—for only the direct benefit of the country.

For the United States, this broadly means that we should no longer police the world. Americans have intervened abroad since the Second World War, in various wars and actions both justifiable and unjustifiable. From the perspective of a nationalist policy, the majority of those actions would have been unjustifiable were it not for the looming presence of an explicitly unfriendly nuclear power, the USSR. That power, if you’re behind on the news, is now known as the Russian Federation. We will return to Russia later—noting for now that what is important here is that we intervene when there is a state explicitly unfriendly towards us.

In today’s world, that entity would be the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. ISIL seeks to draw the West into an ‘apocalyptic’ holy war. While one normally wants to avoid giving their enemies what they want, it seems pragmatic in this case to give ISIL exactly what they want. Everyone agrees on that point on both sides of the isle; what differs is how to get it done.

Mr. Trump has been quoted as saying he would “bomb the hell out of ISIS.” Ultimately, this is the only military action he has ever called for during his campaign. In the past, he was famously against Bush’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. As for Hillary Clinton, she wants to “establish a no fly zone” over Syria. We will quickly break down the implication of these two plans.

Mr. Trump’s plan on ISIL is relatively straight-forward, it goes like this: “if you kill your enemies, they lose.” Such a plan is likely to be very safe for any Americans involved, and offers us a chance to work with the aforementioned Russia.

Our relationship with Russia has suffered greatly in the last decade–and–a–half, both because of economic sanctions placed upon them, and our unwillingness to work with them on nuclear policy. In 2002, the United States pulled out of a nuclear treaty and began to work on previously banned missile defense systems telling Russia, “these aren’t for you, don’t worry.” In response, Russia began, due to their economic situation, to work on stronger offensive missile systems, which “aren’t for America, don’t worry.” It seems to follow that we would like to improve our relationship with a huge economic and military power like Russia.

`On the flip side, Hillary Clinton’s policy on Syria will actively deteriorate our situation with Russia. Russia is good friends with the current government of Syria, so establishing a no-fly zone over Syria would mean that we would have to be willing to keep Russian jets out of Syrian airspace. Effectively, this means that we would have to engage in combat with Russian military forces, were we to go down that path. It’s clear that this is an easy pathway to an open war with Russia—which is no more than a hop, skip, and a jump away from a nuclear exchange. This is by far the single most important foreign policy point that either candidate has publicly put forward. A Hillary Clinton presidency, perhaps, means war with Russia.

Putting that aside, the rest of the Mr. Trump’s foreign policy is very straightforward. For example, our allies have to pay their fair share into NATO, otherwise we have no reason to be part of NATO. Speaking of, one of the reasons that NATO is useful is because it provides a huge, extremely powerful bloc that no one can see themselves opposing. Donald Trump believes that the United States should be that type of bloc all on its own. Instead of spending our military budget on programs like the F-35 fighter jet, we can instead spend it on growing our strength in more concrete ways. It is the old peace–through–superior–firepower approach and seeks to gather more respect from both allies and enemies by being a titan of war.


By Anthony Passalacqua (CE’18)

To begin, the fact of the matter is that free trade is better from a global perspective than isolationism. By increasing market size and consumer base, it becomes easier and easier for companies to grow, as they have access to global resources and the best of the best in whatever they need to prosper. This, in the end, is good for your everyday man. Unfortunately, we do not live in the ideal world in which this would be the case. So today, I argue for isolationism, and, in general, nationalistic policies. I will use the two terms more or less interchangeably.

The isolationist policy with regard to trade is one based on the tariff, the—dare I say, time honored—practice of heavily taxing imports. In the modern era, tariffs have fallen to the wayside in the United States, as trade deals such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) guarantee there will be no tariffs between the United States, Mexico, and Canada. A similar deal, the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), is currently on the table, and whether it is passed or vetoed depends on the results of the current presidential elections. Both candidates, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, currently claim that they would not sign off on TPP, though Clinton has a history of supporting it.

This means that the US market is, to some
extent, subject to the will of foreign nations.

On the surface, free trade deals seem like a total good. The idea is that by opening up cheaper markets, prices will go down, and everyone will be able to use their comparative advantage more effectively. However, there is a more sinister underbelly to free trade deals. We put aside how large bodies like the World Trade Organization can cap tariffs, and the ramifications that such caps have on national sovereignty. Instead, we will focus on the fact that free trade is inherently unfair if not all parties in the deal are playing by the same rules. And in deals between the United States and most developing countries, the other guy is certainly not playing by the rules.

What does it mean to say that? The United States, in comparison to the countries like Mexico, China, and Pakistan, has extremely strict workers’ rights laws, on top of stronger environmental regulation, and a higher corporate tax rate. That makes it extremely appetizing for countries to move abroad when free trade deals are signed—as we saw when NAFTA was passed, and as we continue to see with Ford moving its small car division to Mexico.

Under a free trade deal, moving to another country only adds shipping onto the cost of a product, while greatly reducing manufacturing costs, almost always in notably immoral ways. Companies which move abroad can take advantage of the people of the country to which they move, in the same way large companies took advantage of Americans before labor rights laws were passed. These companies can also dodge the stricter environmental and health regulations of the United States, meaning that when they move abroad they can cut corners, at the cost only of their neighbors and the Earth.

In addition, free trade deals, in their own manner, reduce the independence of the United States’ market. Our manufacturing base is smaller, relatively, than it once was, and that means we rely more on imports to get access to the goods that the people want. This gives other nations a form of leverage over the United States, as they can always raise the taxes on their exports and drive up prices in the United States, without getting to the point that it is better for companies to outright return to the United States. This means that the US market is, to some extent, subject to the will of foreign nations.

Besides that, companies moving abroad strictly lowers the tax base of the United States, as the import tax (at its highest, 16%) is a good deal lower than the corporate tax rate of the United States (currently sitting at 35%). Isolationist thought suggests that these two rates should be reversed. Any imported goods, then, must be high enough quality for the people of the US to want to purchase them regardless of their increased price, while every day goods can come from the United States for a similar— or cheaper— price than they do now, owing to the greatly reduced corporate tax rate.

Imagine a scenario in which prices of goods do go up significantly. In that case, it’s all now within the family, so to speak. American workers have more access to jobs which had been gone for the past twenty years since the signing of NAFTA, the corporations are contributing more to the tax base directly, as they cannot as easily pass the price on to the consumer as they can when faced with a tariff, and additional revenue flows to the state in the form of a sales tax for products that are being sold at a higher price than they once were. All this money flowing around the economy contributes to the rate of GDP growth, which has recently been sorely lacking (hovering at around 1% for the last year, and not exceeding 5% in the last 5 years).

So to summarize, what does the nationalistic policy on trade bring us? It brings us prices which are not significantly higher than currently; it adds to the tax base of the United States; it returns jobs to the United States which had left; it subjects companies to stricter environmental, labor, and health regulations; and, importantly, it allows the United States to be more independent from foreign actors than we are currently, by making us less dependent on imports. ◊

Free and Fair Trade

by Michael Pasternak (ME ’17)

We’ve all heard of free trade, it’s become a hot button topic in the political sphere in recent times. However, who but the coffee drinkers among us have heard of fair trade? Few likely, yet it’s becoming a real alternative among economists and policy makers. Fair trade is a bit more complex, but free trade is simple in concept and execution: lower as many barriers as possible to international trade in order to allow free movement of goods and services and unlock wider and larger markets for everyone involved.

As a nation, we have to address that
not all foreign labor markets should
be endorsed by trade.

As a general economic principle, free trade means growth. I say this as an absolute truth: there are next to no economists in the mainstream academic sphere who believe otherwise. A University of Chicago poll from 2014 asked a panel of economists from the Initiative on Global Markets if “past major trade deals have benefited most Americans.” Twenty-three percent strongly agreed, 70% agreed, and 7% were uncertain or chose not to respond. There were no panelists who disagreed or disagreed strongly. The debate of free trade versus economic controls and tariffs is purely political and the sides are clear cut. Those on one side interpret data and use history to make decisions; those on the other side choose to only interpret fear and use trade policy as a thinly veiled substitute for xenophobia.

That being said, even once it’s established that breaking down barriers to trade is unequivocally positive, there are other concerns. As a nation, we have to address that not all foreign labor markets should be endorsed by trade. For example, sanctions on nations like Russia, who commit war crimes and invade neighboring countries at will, are appropriate because even though sanctions can hurt trade in the short term, war and instability are barriers to free trade in the medium and long term. It’s hard to trade in a war torn country where roads and bridges are not functioning and the banks aren’t open. Furthermore, you need domestic stability for economic growth. Countries who carry out war elsewhere may still experience growth, but there are few to no examples of countries in which wars are being fought that experience growth in trade. Therefore, it’s in the interest of a nation looking to maximize trade to maximize global and domestic stability. In fact, American foreign policy can be much more easily understood through that lens. Where we are militarily active, it’s usually for the sake of trying to keep regions under control in a general sense. We have a carrier group near China, for example, in order to prevent conflict between them Taiwan or Japan. The more critical a trade partner, the more resources the US is willing to commit to their region’s stability. That’s a big reason why we have such a strong tie with Israel.

However, there does enter another factor: morality and development. It isn’t an explicit duty of the United States to prevent the likes of slavery and war for the sake of preventing human suffering. Nonetheless, there’s a drive from a significant segment of the populace to do exactly that. Fair trade is the movement to address moral concerns of unfettered free trade, mostly driven from the political far-left but economically spread among academic doctrines. For example, slavery is not dead. North Korea uses slavery on a massive scale, and Qatar is known to be using slaves for much of the construction of its upcoming 2022 FIFA World Cup infrastructure. Indonesia, China, and India have problems with slavery or near-slave labor conditions. Fair trade, in theory, accomplishes two things: establish an even playing field for labor and guarantee rights for workers. It accomplishes those goals by preventing countries with horrible regulatory frameworks for human rights to enter trade agreements without concessions concerning guaranteed rights for workers.

There’s a very real debate currently occurring between proponents of the two types of trade; a debate that is philosophical just as much as it is economic in nature. I consider myself a proponent of fair trade, but there’s little data currently available to prove the long term positive effects actually exist. One thing, however, is sure: while particular trade agreements can have issues, we should aim to increase free trade wherever we can as long as we do not have a corresponding cost, and there’s no reason to return to the days of tariff past. ◊

Drawbacks of the Carbon Tax

By Anthony Passalacqua (CE ‘18)

To begin, the Republican platform is most likely wrong on the science of climate change. I am no climatologist and neither are most politicians, so I will take the safe route and agree with what seems to be the prevailing theory amongst trained scientists—humans have a measurable impact on the climate of the Earth due to our carbon based emissions. With this truth out of the way, I will now argue against the carbon tax, which seeks to reduce carbon emissions by taxing companies that emit a lot of carbon. It seems a fairly straightforward and simple solution: if companies have to pay to emit pollutants, then they will stop pumping out pollutants. However, like many simple solutions, this is only skin deep, and does not address the problem

The first problem lies in the fact that many large scale manufacturing operations, of the type which tend to emit hundreds or thousands of tons of carbon, tend to be on the slim slide, profit wise. Environmental regulations and large corporate taxes make them hard to maintain in the United States. This is why many—as Republicans truthfully point out—have already moved to smoggier pastures with the passing of NAFTA.

Being that the remaining operations in the United States are necessarily less profitable than they once were, it stands to reason that additional taxation could easily push them over the edge, from the black into the red. In a less globalized world, this would be the end and the problem of emission would be solved. However, we live in a world of free trade agreements, and the problem becomes significantly more complicated.

Capital, in our increasingly globalized world, is extremely easy to move, and often moving it does not carry a large tax burden. This effectively means that if a factory is just barely in the red in the United States, it can move to Mexico or China, and leverage the cheap labor and small import taxes of the United States to once more become profitable. This carries along with it its own moral problems of exploitative labor and hurting the American economy in exchange for helping the global economy at large, but we will set those aside for now and focus on emissions.

So our hypothetical factory has moved to, say, China, for the sake of our example. At this point they are operating within an entirely new legal framework. No longer are they bound to even the now laxer rules of the United States Environmental Protection Agency, but instead to the Chinese Ministry of Environmental Protection.

With disasters ranging from the infamous smog of larger Chinese cities to huge explosions on the streets resulting from greased palms signing off on bogus plans, the MEP is not exactly a robust organization. This means that the company which has only just moved overseas can go back to its old ways, and with a few bribes here and there, pollute the environment to its heart’s content in order to grow profit.

In this way, a carbon tax actually serves to set back the progress we’ve made in reducing emissions and cleaning up the environment. The company in question in fact does not reduce the emissions it puts out, as the carbon tax was meant to cause, but instead moves overseas where it can pseudo-legally increase its emissions. By backing a carbon tax, one effectively backs even worse carbon based emissions, and only worsens the climate change that said emissions are causing.

This is hardly the only downside of American businesses moving overseas. Think what you want of the minimum wage of the United States, right to work states, and the like, but it is a fair claim to make that the average factory worker of the United States is significantly less exploited than the average factory worker of China (where, I must remind the reader, companies such as FoxConn have had to put up nets outside of their dormitories in order to stymie suicide attempts).

Furthermore, this arrangement means that the lion’s share of taxes that the company will be paying will go to the Chinese treasury, rather than that of the United States, directly hurting the American economy by reducing its tax base.

To shift gears, the Republican platform actually goes even further in the opposite direction of the carbon tax, seeking to make environmental regulations laxer. The argument continues thusly: supposing that reducing regulations makes a business that has moved to China once again profitable in the United States, then companies will once again move back to the States from abroad. Here they will have to adhere to the laxer-than-now but stricter-than-in-China environmental policies, thus helping the environment. Of course, this argument also relies on the fact that other parts of the Republican platform would also make it less profitable in general for companies to operate oversees; that, however, will be left for another time.

I would be lying if I made the claim that these are the reasons that most Republicans have in attacking the use of the carbon tax. Many, including our nominee, believe that climate change is a lie made up by China in order to damage the United States economy. However, I hope that this presentation of a deeper look at the carbon tax has revealed that it is likely a poor solution to the problem of carbon based emissions. ◊

Benefits of the Carbon Tax

By Michael Pasternak (ME ‘17)

You may have heard of the Carbon Tax as a proposed solution to climate change. What you may not have heard is that, among economists, it’s the preferred solution to climate change. According to a report from The Institute for Policy Integrity at the New York University School of Law from 2015, 77% of economists with relevant publications answered that the US should cut its emissions no matter what actions other countries take, while another 18% said that American emissions cuts would be warranted if many or all other countries commit to reducing theirs. The recent Paris agreement, which established climate mitigation goals with 180 countries, including China and the US, within reason, would satisfy “many or all other countries committing to reducing theirs.” This amounts to an effective 95% of economists with knowledge of the energy economy “supporting action on the climate.” The survey also asked the experts about the most economically efficient method of reducing carbon pollution. Eighty-one percent said a market-based system (carbon tax or cap and trade system) would be most efficient, while 13% answered that coordinated performance standards and programs that prioritize cleaner fuels and energy efficiency would be most efficient.

So why a carbon tax? Simply put, it’s the free market response to hidden costs.

Carbon pollution does cost a lot of money to America, coal pollutants in general even more on top of that. For example, an article in Forbes from 2012 states that, controlled for amount of energy produced, coal is directly responsible for one hundred thousand times more deaths than nuclear, which is the least deadly form of energy in their analysis, closely followed by hydroelectric. A carbon tax is a direct acknowledgement of the reality of the situation, that coal and oil are actually hugely subsidized right now, since the costs of cleanup and health outcomes far outweigh the cheaper energy. A carbon tax simply allows the market to correct for it so that rather than pay for huge oil spills and catastrophic climate change, we’d promote sources of energy without those massive drawbacks.

It’s also worth noting that on a cost basis a carbon tax is almost certainly a pro-nuclear policy. In the US, coal power is followed by nuclear power quite closely in cost per unit of energy produced. In Europe, nuclear energy is actually cheaper than coal. That’s mostly because in Europe many more plants of the same type are built, and at a higher density. Specifically, France is very good at building nuclear plants quickly and cheaply because they are a primarily nuclear energy state. It would be completely reasonable to assume the same process would occur in the US if we follow in the footsteps of Europe and impose a carbon tax on the energy sector.

So why haven’t we? There’s a number of reasons. The first is that our country has an undue amount of influence imposed by moneyed interests, and there’s simply a lot of money already invested in oil and coal. This has led to opposition to renewables from the Right and opposition to nuclear from both sides of the aisle. The Carbon Tax, despite being the single most mainstream economic idea to address climate change, was only proposed by two major politicians in recent memory, Bernie Sanders (whom I believe we all know) and Bob Inglis. Inglis, a Republican, is famously splitting from his party in supporting a “revenue neutral” Carbon Tax. What that would mean is that any proceeds from the tax would be given back to the citizenry through tax rebates for low income farmers, truckers etc. who would feel increased prices in fuel very sharply but may be less able to field those costs. That, I believe, is the reasonable conservative response.

Other critiques of the tax, such as the idea that businesses will simply leave and go to countries without any tax on carbon, simply haven’t been borne out in Europe where carbon taxation already exists. In fact, most analyses show Europe’s energy economy booming following their aggressive response to climate change mitigation. Particularly in France and Denmark, nuclear has essentially replaced coal in baseload generation with renewables providing variable generation to fill in the gaps. There’s a conversation that should be happening about the particulars of the tax, but it’s very clear that in terms of quickly and
effectively addressing the problem, it’s the ideal solution.

So what’s next? We need to pressure our leaders to support nuclear and renewables either through a carbon tax or whatever else our “greatest political minds” can come up with. Sometime in the next couple of weeks (I’ll make sure it’s on Facebook) I will be leading a letter writing campaign on behalf of the New York chapter for the volunteer advocacy group NAYGN (North American Young Generation in Nuclear). Read the letter, and if you agree, sign it! It shows local lawmakers that people actually do care about this stuff and could lead to more positive action like the recent subsidy on nuclear generation in New York state, pushing the conversation towards carbon-free sources of power generation. ◊