New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg proposed a national "pollution pricing" plan Friday that would tax companies directly for the greenhouse gases they release.
"If you really want to reduce carbon emissions, tax carbon at the source, which would mean at the mine head, at the oil well, whatever," Bloomberg told more than 100 other mayors at a climate summit sponsored by the U.S. Conference of Mayors.
Bloomberg suggested a fee of $15 for every ton of greenhouse gas companies emit, with the money used to reduce payroll taxes and finance tax credits for companies that reduce their greenhouse gas pollution.
Greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane trap the sun's energy, warming the Earth's surface and lower atmosphere.
Bloomberg's plan is similar to one already proposed by Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Chris Dodd of Connecticut.
Bloomberg said the voluntary and unenforceable emissions targets favored by President Bush are "like voluntary speed limits — doomed to fail."
He also said another carbon-reduction approach known as cap-and-trade, which many Democratic candidates have endorsed, is a flawed solution and could create bidding wars.
Under cap-and-trade, power plants or businesses that exceed pollution caps must buy or trade for additional allowances, usually from others that have been able to cut their emissions.
Tony Kreindler, a spokesman for Environmental Defense, said it would be tough to push a carbon tax through Congress and it would not guarantee the same benefits as cap-and-trade.
"It's not a baseless solution, but when it comes to fixing climate change, by far the best option is cap-and-trade," Kreindler said.