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Overhaul of the tax system could save lives precious resources

02/11/1998

OXFORD, Ohio -- Could an overhaul of America's tax policy save trees, lakes, animals and even human lives?

Probably, says Orie Loucks, professor of zoology and Ohio Eminent Scholar in Applied Ecosystems Studies at Miami University.

Redirecting current sources of tax revenue away from labor and income taxes and onto fossil fuels would stimulate development of cleaner, less-polluting alternative energy supplies from within the U.S. and save Americans up to $150 billion a year.

Such a shift of tax burden--implemented over 20 to 30 years by lowering personal income taxes in proportion to additional taxes on fossil fuels--could take place with no impact on the average citizen.

Guided by such a plan, automobile and electricity users would bear increased usage costs while paying less income tax. These marketplace incentives, Loucks said, would encourage electricity suppliers and vehicle manufacturers to use benign sources of energy now becoming available.

How would this be done? Wind-generated electricity and hydrogen fuels produced from thermal and photo-voltaic electricity could be used more cheaply than fossil fuels to run our cars, computers and factories.

"The GDP is said to be growing at roughly two to three percent each year," Loucks said. "But environmental repair and the human health costs associated with using fossil fuels is about three percent of that GDP. Because of these costs, many scholars no longer view the economy as growing. Shouldn't we begin looking at benign energy sources to foster real growth?"

In addition to fewer dollars spent on recovery from fossil fuel pollutant damages, development of U.S.-based alternative energy sources would actually create economic growth by fostering new industries, Loucks said.

Professor Loucks will present his ideas Feb. 14 in a symposium at the 150th annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Philadelphia. He also is available by calling 513-529-1677 or by e-mail at LOUCKSOL@MUOhio.Edu.

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