This situation was interesting to me because it -- like the example of running a pig farm to meet clean water codes (most violate many of them) at an additional cost of $0.05/kg -- shows how absolutely CHEAP "doing the right thing" really is. If you listen to politicians, talk radio hosts and lying lobbyists, you'd think that a carbon tax (or the cost of cleaning water) would put your parents on the street, your ancestors' headstones for sale, and your kids into prostitution. But the cost is really just a tiny amount of money.
How can that cost be so low and why are people so opposed to it if it is?
The first answer is that a little cost can have a big effect if its spread across enough people. Wal-mart regularly breaks conservation records by shaving 0.2 percent off its shipping distances or packing weight. Five cent charges for plastic bags have dropped use by 50 percent or more in many cities. So the key is the total effect, not the lack of effect on you or small effect with any given person.
Second, the people who oppose these moves often face a much higher cost than the average person because they are in the oil selling, pig selling or bottled water selling business. We know about oil and pig lobbyists, but I am just as sure that Nestle, Pepsi and Coke are ALL opposed to (refundable) deposits on plastic water bottles because they do not want to raise the price of their product from $1.00 to $1.05 per liter (for example) because such a move might remind consumers that they can switch (in many places) to "practically free" tap water.
So those are the theories, but let's look at how much more things would cost (spreadsheet with numbers and sources) if we added a carbon tax of $30 per ton of CO2 (double the costs below if you're feeling a sense of urgency).
A gallon (liter) of gasoline would cost $0.27 (€0.06) more
NB: Gasoline in the Netherlands now costs €1.64/liter, which is $5.65/gallon**
One thousand cubic feet (one cubic meter) of natural gas would cost $1.59 (€0.06) more
NB: Our household uses about 30m^3 per month, so our bill would rise by €1.80 per month
One kWh would cost $0.012 (€0.011) more***
NB: Our household uses about 139 kwh per month, so our bill would rise by €1.50 per month
"Typical" meat, vegetarian, or vegan diets would cost $79, $42 or $32 per year more.
Looking into individual food prices:
- Beef would cost $0.37/pound (€0.74/kg) more.
- Cheese would cost $0.18/pound (€0.37/kg) more.
- Chicken would cost $0.09/pound (€0.19/kg) more.
- Eggs would cost $0.07/pound (€0.13/kg) more.
- Rice would cost $0.04/pound (€0.07/kg) more.
- Tofu would cost $0.03/pound (€0.05/kg) more.
* I assumed the same emissions for supplying desalinated water to ALL citizens, not just the 7 percent the plant can now supply.
** This price reflects existing "green taxes," which makes me wonder how much Dutch prices would change -- if at all -- under a carbon pricing scheme. I guess that it would have a low impact on households that already pay such taxes (as we do on electricity and natural gas) but a bigger impact on farmers and industry that are usually exempt from "anti-competative" or "job killing" taxes (see the pig example above for the truth in that lie!)
*** US Energy Information Agency data are very difficult to understand so I used EU data.