The Dan River coal ash story and the story of climate change have much in common in my mind and beg the same question: Who should pay?
Coal ash and greenhouse gases are both byproducts of burning fossil fuels. They are not what we ask for but, along with electricity in our homes and fuel in our cars, they are what we get. It’s easy to be outraged by what happened in the Dan River; the damage is obvious. We ask Duke Energy to provide us with a continuous supply of power, and it does this for a profit and should be accountable for cleaning up its mess. Taxpayers should not pay a single dime.
Less obvious is the accumulation of carbon dioxide and methane in the atmosphere; these are colorless gases. But they do trap heat, and the planet is warming. So far, it’s taxpayers who are footing the bill for the billions more in damage we’re seeing every year from a changed climate.
Should Duke Energy or the big energy companies pay for global warming? Perhaps not. But we should put a revenue-neutral price on carbon-based fuels and transition to a clean energy economy.