In response to the Nov. 6 article on the defeat of Proposition 112 and Amendment 74:

I’m a lifelong environmentalist, and I voted against Proposition 112. The health risks struck me as real, but the economic and jobs concerns did as well. What tipped it for me was that this proposition was not likely to even be particularly carbon-negative. In a nation where the lion’s share of our energy usage is divided between natural gas and coal, the diminishment of one is often to the direct benefit of the other, and coal emits carbon at about twice the rate of its competitor. Meanwhile, non-emitting sources such as nuclear and renewables lag behind.

In discussing 112 with numerous friends — many environmentalists, and some in disagreement with my position — one theme rang loud throughout the conversations: There is a very high appetite for our state to do something — anything — to combat climate change. In my opinion, Proposition 112 was not that thing, but part of me was nonetheless heartened to see the fervency with which it drove people to passionate positions.

The measure, for all its flaws, received 43 percent of the vote. That begs the question: What would happen if we had some truly revolutionary environmental policy on the ballot? Smarter regulations would be an improvement, but let’s dare to dream big.

Washington voters just rejected a statewide carbon fee initiative. Could Colorado succeed where they failed? A carbon fee places a price on the extraction of fossil fuels. It is widely accepted among economists, including recent Nobel laureate William Nordhaus, as the least economically intrusive, hence most efficient, way to fight climate change. If the money raised is returned to voters as a dividend on a per-capita basis, it builds into the economy a natural reward for good carbon behavior that rich and poor alike can benefit from. Best of all, it does what Proposition 112 did not: It disincentivizes fuels in exact proportion to their carbon content. Coal, having twice the carbon content of natural gas, is taxed twice as much.

Proposition 112 drew massive support despite its economic and environmental shortcomings. We just elected a governor in Jared Polis who supports a carbon tax at the national level and is open to one for the state. Looking already toward our next election, I sincerely hope to see Colorado take the reins of leadership on statewide environmental policy.

Dan Palken, Boulder

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