Democrats are pushing for big polluters to pay for their climate damage

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Estimated total to be paid back by the worst-offending companies.


Climate change is no longer a far-off explosion on the horizon; it’s a daily reality that complicates lives around the world. A new Democratic bill in Congress seeks to collect about $500 billion from the world’s top contributors to global pollution — a climate back-tax of sorts. The largest polluters could be charged as much as $6 billion every year for the next 10 years to manage their new debt.

The draft legislation, which was proposed by Sen. Chris Van Holland, would allow the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Treasury Department to create a list of the companies that released the highest levels of greenhouse gasses between 2000 and 2019. The Treasury would then have the go-ahead to charge those companies a fee dependent upon the estimated volume of gasses the company emitted during that two-decade time span.

“It’s based on a simple but powerful idea that polluters should pay to help clean up the mess they caused, and that those who polluted the most should pay the most,” Sen. Van Hollen said in an interview. It’s difficult to argue with that logic.

There’s already pushback — Sound logic or not, not everyone is going to be game for this new pollution pay-back program. Thomas J. Pyle, president of the Institute for Energy Research, called the legislation “laughable.”

“I can’t imagine any court of law that this would stand up in,” he said of the idea.

Still, Sen. Van Hollen hopes he’ll be able to find general support for the bill in the Democratic party. The legislation could pass without any Republican votes — though that would require just about every Democratic congressperson to vote in favor of it.

Pay up, bigwigs — Fossil fuel advocates seem to be stuck on the idea that honing in on a select group of companies is unfair. But all the research we have shows that it is indeed a select group of people who are overwhelmingly contributing to the steady destruction of the planet.

Some of the largest oil companies and the American Petroleum Institute support the institution of some sort of tax on carbon emissions as an alternative solution. This way everyone would have to pay for their emissions, not just big businesses. To which we say: Why not both?

And anyway, these companies are some of the richest in the world. They won’t exactly have to go scrounging in the couch cushions for change to pay the bills.