by Kelly Zito
The San Francisco Chronicle, September 20, 2009

Last year the Bay Area Air Quality Management District voted to charge about 2,500 businesses for emitting greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide. The fee, which currently amounts to 4.5 cents per metric ton of greenhouse gases, is widely seen as too small in most cases to deter the discharge of carbon dioxide and other gases. Instead, the fees were set to generate money for further study.

The largest emitters – refineries, power plants and cement factories, for example – must pay hundreds of thousands of dollars each year. Other businesses – including auto shops, coffee roasters and restaurants – pay $1 or $2 per year.

Though these fees are mere pocket change for big polluters like Chevron, there’s a need for funds to plan carbon pricing solutions with real teeth. Still, we think this is a pretty small step toward an effective market-based approach to cutting emissions. How will we slow global warming if a metric ton of carbon waste costs less than a nickel?