I agree with David Deick in his enthusiastic commentary ("Get real," Sept. 28); we need to be working now on a post-fossil-fuel economy. But whether California can go far enough on this road without national policy changes is questionable. We are already seeing excellent steps forward at the California state and local level. Alternative powered electricity, including rooftop solar, has proceeded well, but it received tax credits from the federal government. Hybrid and electric vehicles are seeing significant breakthrough improvements, but cheap fossil fuels have increased the demand for inefficient SUVs and trucks. We need dependable carbon-lowering incentives that will impact economic decisions.
The devastating environmental costs of carbon pollution must be reflected in the market price. This could best be done with a steadily rising carbon fee and benefit program. The fee could be returned to consumers on a per capita basis. For the program to work, there is a need for border adjustments to encourage importers to lessen carbon content and allow exports to be competitive. Studies, including the MIT global climate model, have shown this would be successful at reducing carbon emissions while increasing economic growth.
The synergy of green manufacturing is also vital for our future economy. We need a balanced trade policy. I strongly disagree with the "free trade" argument that has China doing our manufacturing jobs in the "green economy." Currently, the U.S. has a $350 billion trade deficit with China. China has intentionally targeted the American solar panel market and intends to dominate future electric car production. Recent U.S. demand (with U.S. tax credits) helped grow the subsidized Chinese solar panel industry. Will we do the same with electric cars?
"Free Trade" is a myth, and "Fair Trade" is indefinable; Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump both want "Fair Trade." We need Balanced Trade. Unbalanced trade is undermining American workers. The imagined threat of a "trade war" is a mindset that continues to blind our politics. We are already in a trade war. U.S. workers are being defeated by Wall Street and China.
Let's build a post-fossil-fuel economy. Let's massively increase our green manufacturing. Let's build a green economy that works for U.S. workers and Main Street—as well as the environment. California can lead the way, but let's take our country with us.