Utah, like much of the West, remains in an “extreme drought” and a governor-declared “state of emergency.” Reducing excessive water use through a market-based approach, though not popular, may be the most effective strategy, according to Deseret News editorials on May 12 and June 3, which said, “... if the end result isn’t higher rates for heavy water usage, little conservation would result.”

Record heat and wildfire smoke across the West were also difficult to miss this summer. Climate scientists link both to increasing global temperatures due primarily to rising greenhouse gas levels. The solution most favored by economists is similar to that for saving water — a market-based approach. Price carbon-intensive products fairly, taking all major external costs into account, and let the consumer decide. Economists agree that this is the most efficient way to reduce carbon emissions. And, if the revenues collected are returned to American households, increased fossil fuel costs would not hurt the economy and clean-energy jobs would be created. 

Conserving Utah’s precious water and reducing the consequences of our warming climate needs market incentives — those who consume more pay more; those who consume less pay less, and society benefits. Price signals work better than restrictive regulations.

David Ryser