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New studies warn that its likely to get a lot hotter in Kansas, Missouri and other Midwestern states in the future unless greenhouse gas emissions are abruptly curbed.
Locally, actions must be taken to help reduce the problem, especially given this regions reliance on coal-fired power plants.
Kansas City area businesses should continue their worthwhile efforts to install modern pollution-control equipment. Green roofs (and white ones as well) can help keep buildings cooler, slicing air-conditioning costs. Dialing up thermostats in summer and down in the winter, and using efficient light bulbs, also will trim energy use.
Nationally, we need a policy that will slash greenhouse gas emissions across the United States.
However, the bill aimed at doing that narrowly approved by the U.S. House in June remains deeply flawed.
The cap and trade measure is designed to make businesses buy and sell permits to meet orderly goals of reduced pollution.
But the House policy is full of loopholes. It is too lenient on polluters.
It doesnt ensure that emissions will decline swiftly.
Now its time for the U.S. Senate to act. And the most positive change the Senate could make would be to radically alter the proposal and approve a measure to impose a carbon tax.
A tax on fossil fuels that create greenhouse gases would dramatically and quickly force coal-fired power plants and other industries to modernize equipment. A tax also would encourage investment in cleaner and renewable energies. Some of the tax revenue could be used to speed up research on energy sources such as wind, solar and electric batteries.
And while a carbon tax would boost energy costs in the short term, it would be a fair way to have Americans pay for the cost of using power that damages the environment and helps create global warming. As renewable energy gains a larger foothold, it could actually create jobs in energy-efficient industries, holding down costs as new power sources become cheaper and more efficient.
Finally, a carbon tax (unlike the weak cap and trade policy) would not be soft on polluters and would definitely lead to emission reductions. A tax would be more difficult than a permit system for Washington lobbyists to emasculate.
A carbon tax has many enemies. Higher energy bills during tough economic times could be a politicians ticket to early retirement at the polls, goes the thinking.
If the Senate doesnt have the spine to endorse such a tax, it needs to take the next best step of dramatically strengthening the Houses bill. Exemptions must be stripped out. Stricter and earlier deadlines on emissions should be set. Permits to pollute must not be given away or sold at a low cost.
The Senate definitely should not pass the House version, a defective bill that would have negative consequences for years to come. It is not in the nations best interests.
The Senate truly needs to have the political courage to pass a carbon tax. It would strike a blow for protecting the environment and preventing potentially disastrous climate change.
Here in the Midwest, acting locally will help reduce harmful emissions and energy bills. But the best way to dial down the heat for decades to come here and around the nation is for Congress to act responsibly.