Coal remains the number one source of electricity in this country, accounting for about one third of our total electricity generation. In Utah, coal accounts for nearly 80% of the electricity produced in the state. Coal is a significant contributor to the notoriously bad air experienced in places such as Salt Lake County and Utah County, which are already susceptible to inversions.
Furthermore, coal often has high levels of mercury that contaminates our air and our water. This can impact the quality of our drinking water, as well as harming the wildlife that depend upon Utah's waterways. Some of those same birds and fish are also hunted and fished by local sportsmen, leading to mercury-contaminated fish and poultry ending up on Utahans' dinner plates.
If we want to clean up our water and our air, we need to start phasing out coal and other polluting sources of energy. The best way to do that is by directly taxing these sources of pollution, and then using those funds to make the investments into cleaner sources of energy like solar and wind.
Gasoline-powered automobiles are another major source of air pollution in both Utah and the nation as a whole. We should be taxing gasoline to generate the funds necessary to make investments in infrastructure to support greener alternatives such as electric cars and public transportation.
This year, Utah added a $0.15 a gallon tax on gasoline. This tax that was easily absorbed by the population and will generate lots of revenue for the state; there is no reason we couldn't do a 10-15 cent a gallon tax nationwide for the purposes of funding green transportation, infrastructure, and technologies.