In late February 2015, the Network for Sustainable Financial Markets (NSFM) proposed a Carbon Tax and Refund policy in New York State, which would “place a sales tax on fossil fuels produced or distributed in New York State,” according to a news release from PR Newswire. This tax would provide more than $3.3 billion in new tax revenue for New York, which would be remitted back to households and eligible corporations through tax refunds.
According to the release, NSFM aims to alter heavy consumer and producer reliance on fossil fuels by sending a “price signal” of the costliness of fossil fuels. NSFM also plans to rally support among activists, politicians and businesses on smaller local levels within New York State.
Other states and provinces in North America have enacted similar carbon taxes with successful results. The official website of the Carbon Tax Center, an American organization of activists who support sustainable energy sources and encourage fair carbon taxes, cites a successful, “straightforward” and “transparent” carbon tax in British Columbia (BC), Canada. This tax prompted a 15.1 percent decrease in BC’s use of fossil fuels from its onset in 2008 to 2012, as well as a 9.9 percent decrease in greenhouse gas emissions from 2008 to 2010, according to the Carbon Tax Center.
Despite this global push for sustainable energy sources and green solutions to climate change, many Americans only support such tax increases on conditional terms. An article from the Los Angeles Times cited a study from Muhlenberg College in Pennsylvania, which determined that “a sizable majority of Americans can support a tax on carbon [only] if it’s structured the right way.” In essence, many Americans only support smaller-scale carbon taxes, which the study says may not be large enough to make a noticeable dent in harmful carbon emissions.
SUNY New Paltz and its surrounding community have similarly supported environmentally-friendly policies. The college’s department of Campus Auxiliary Services (CAS) unanimously passed a ban on plastic water bottle sales in December 2014. Additionally, the university installed six electric vehicle charging stations in the Elting Gym parking lot in February 2015 with the aim of encouraging carpooling and more environmentally-friendly transportation, according to Sustainability Coordinator Lisa Mitten.
First-year sociology major Ali Dahlem called New Paltz a “very environmentally conscious community” and recounted her experience at the People’s Climate March in New York City during November 2014, which she attended with over 200 other students and activists from New Paltz.
“It definitely revealed that the environmental crisis is an issue that a huge number of people need to see resolved and soon,” Dahlem said. “I was also proud to be a part of the New Paltz group traveling to the city. We had our own special balloons, signs and chants and it made me feel really lucky to be a part of a community that cares so much about the environment and taking action.”
Dahlem also said that she thinks this carbon tax is “a step in the right direction.”
“I do think that if the tax was imposed, it would really alert people to the reality that pollution is costly, not only financially but in every way possible,” Dahlem said. “I [also] think that imposing more policies like these will definitely allow the U.S to catch up to other nations. I remember reading an article the other day about France passing a new law that requires all new buildings in commercial areas to have either solar panels or ‘green roofs’.”
At the time of this writing, no politicians or activists from New Paltz have spoken in favor of or against the proposal.