Should the state institute a carbon tax?

Tim Cronin
Tim Croninhandout


Tim Cronin

Policy and partnership manager, Climate Action Business Association; Weymouth resident

What if I told you that some of our roads and coastal infrastructure are as old as the Eisenhower presidency? If you are like me and the half million people who rely on our transit system daily, the need for modernization is no surprise. But roads and transit aren’t the only thing that dramatically needs an upgrade. Our coastlines are being consumed by more powerful storms as higher sea levels challenge seaside communities.

Plain and simple, the core of our infrastructure no longer meets Massachusetts’ needs. At the same time, we lack the revenue needed to invest in solutions for our communities.


Transportation affects everything: our health, the economy, the environment, our ability to get to work, or visit the doctor. At the same time, burning fossil fuels in cars and trucks is the state’s largest source of greenhouse gas emissions. Our reliance on dirty fuel sources impacts statewide air quality, and ultimately contributes to the increasing intensity of coastal storms that displace families and damage local businesses.

In 2008, Massachusetts joined a multi-state plan to reduce pollution from our electricity sector through a regional carbon price. As a state, we were able to fuel our economy by investing in energy efficiency and switching to clean energy. Since 2008, the nine-state region has seen power plant pollution cut in half, and thousands of jobs created. This carbon pricing also funded upgrades to our homes and businesses through programs like MassSave.

This same approach is our best chance of modernizing our transportation and coastal infrastructure, while reducing the pollution it causes. It incentivizes cleaner, more fuel-efficient cars, trucks and buses while funding more reliable mass transit and coastal adaptation.

Several proposals seek a price on carbon pollution in Massachusetts, from bills sponsored by Representative Jennifer Benson and Senator Michael Barrett to a multi-state approach championed by Governor Charles Baker. Growing support for carbon pricing from small business owners, environmental organizations, and community leaders has moved these proposals to center stage. Last session the Senate unanimously passed a bill that included carbon pricing, and in December Baker announced Massachusetts would lead the eight northeastern states negotiating a regional transportation carbon price.


Michael Ferrante
Michael Ferrantehandout


Michael Ferrante

President, Massachusetts Energy Marketers Association, based in Burlington; Essex resident

Authors, cosponsors, and supporters of legislative proposals on Beacon Hill to establish a carbon tax on fossil fuels maintain the tax is the remedy for combating climate change, but any such tax will substantially increase the cost of living for every resident in Massachusetts, hurt small business owners, damage the state’s economy, and provide no proven impact on reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The two key proposals before the Legislature — Senate 1924 and House 2810 — would levy a tax on most energy resources in Massachusetts — including home heating oil, propane, natural gas, gasoline, and diesel fuel to discourage fossil use resulting in reduced carbon dioxide. H-2810 exempts electricity but it’s unclear to us whether the already sky-high electric rates in Massachusetts would be impacted by a carbon tax under Senate 1924.

Using carbon dioxide emissions coefficients published by the US Energy Information Agency, my organization calculates that homeowners using heating oil statewide would pay an additional $487 annually by 2030 under Senate 1924, and $582 more per year if House 2810 becomes law. Furthermore, we estimate that carbon taxes will add an additional $700 to $835 to annual household costs for gasoline in the state.


Addressing climate change and the requirements mandated by the state Global Warming Solutions Act of 2008 are laudable goals that our industry supports. But there are more sensible pathways to achieving these goals without burdening residents with additional taxes on the necessities of life. Let’s focus on improved energy efficiency in homes and businesses to further reduce the volume of heating oil, natural gas, and propane currently being used; producing more electricity through renewable sources; and continuing to expand the use of clean, renewable biodiesel blended with heating oil.

In recent months a fuel tax increase in France — effectively a carbon tax — caused petroleum prices to spike and gave rise to nationwide protests and the creation of the international “yellow vest movement.” And carbon tax legislation has yet to win approval in any other state in the nation. Lawmakers on Beacon Hill should be mindful of these developments and reject draconian carbon tax proposals.

This is an informal poll, not a scientific survey. Please vote only once.

As told to Globe correspondent John Laidler. Anyone interested in suggesting a topic or writing a piece can contact him at laidler@globe.com.