IMAGE: BOULDER
Doug Pensinger  /  Getty Images file
The city of Boulder, where residents on Tuesday passed the first carbon tax in the nation, is nestled against the foothills of the Rocky Mountains.
msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 11/10/2006 8:59:13 AM ET 2006-11-10T13:59:13

Voters in a Colorado university town nestled in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains have passed the country’s first municipal carbon tax to fight global warming.

Boulder, Colo., will charge residents and businesses the carbon tax based on how much electricity they use. Most electricity in Boulder is generated at plants that use coal, which produces more of the main greenhouse gas carbon dioxide, than natural gas or oil.

Carbon taxes have been a subject of debate in the United States, the world’s leading consumer of fossil fuels, as some communities try to reduce the output of gases scientists link to global warming.

New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman and others have argued for a gradual increase in U.S. gasoline taxes. That would bring motor fuel prices up closer to prices paid in Europe and fund projects to develop alternative energy and make cars more efficient. So far, that idea has found scant support.

$1.33 a month for homes
The Boulder tax will raise average home bills $1.33 per month and businesses will pay an extra $3.80 per month, according to the town. The tax will generate about $1 million for the city annually. Utility Xcel Energy will collect the tax.

The money will fund energy audits for homes and businesses and visits by energy experts to advise homeowners how to save energy through means such as energy efficient lighting and insulation.

Residents that choose to purchase wind power will not be assessed the tax.

The measure introduced in August by the City Council won with about 58 percent of Tuesday’s vote, said Sarah Van Pelt, Boulder’s environmental sustainability coordinator. A business group, Boulder Tomorrow, opposed the tax.

Energy savings estimated
Van Pelt said electricity customers, many of whom live in older, drafty homes, would eventually save money through the efficiency adjustments. “We really didn’t think of the tax as a stick approach,” she said. 

The city figures energy cost savings of $63 million over the long term.

The city council in 2002 adopted the goals of the Kyoto climate treaty signed by most industrial countries, and created its own Climate Action Plan.

“The main strategies” of the plan, the city said in a statement, “are to increase energy efficiency, promote renewable energy and alternative vehicle fuels, and reduce vehicle miles traveled.”

Reuters contributed to this report.

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