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EU Carbon Tax on Flights: “A Small Step In The Right Direction” Says Economist

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'Tis the season to travel, travel, travel and like almost everything else this year, the cost to fly is not getting any cheaper, especially when you factor in all the additional fees.

There are fees to change your travel plans and fees to use your frequent flier miles. There are checked-bag fees, fees for bags that exceed a certain weight and now Spirit Airlines even charges a fee for carry-on luggage. Once onboard, there are often are snack and beverage fees and fees to watch TV or movies.

If that wasn't already enough, you will likely be hit with yet another fee for any flight that takes you to or through the European Union. The EU is the first nation to approve sweeping cap-and-trade measures that charge airlines for their pollution. These rules take effect starting Jan. 1.

The U.S. airline industry is up in arms as are airlines in at least 26 other countries around the world. According to industry estimates, the EU ruling could cost the already struggling U.S. airlines more than $3 billion between 2012 to 2020, reports Bloomberg.

And guess who will likely take the brunt of most of those costs? That's right, you.

The cost to passengers is expected to range from as little as $2 to as much as $15 dollars for a single transatlantic flight.

Gernot Wagner, Environmental Defense Fund economist and Columbia University professor, says these fees are a small price to pay compared to the actual damage caused to the environment every time we fly back and forth across the pond.

As he explains in the accompanying interview, for every transatlantic flight a person takes, roughly 1 ton of carbon gas is emitted. That equates to $20 of damage to the planet, he says.

Wagner is also of the author of the new book But Will the Planet Notice? How Smart Economics Can Change the World where he argues these types of laws are what's needed to save the planet from global warming.

"Right now we privatize the benefits and socialize the costs," says Wagner of our free-market capitalistic society. "This is basically leveling the playing field" between us and the planet.

Individual environmentally friendly acts are great — like saying 'no' to plastic bags or carpooling to work — but "the planet won't notice" because not enough people are inclined to make green choices all the time, he says.

With the EU ruling, a third of all global flights will be impacted. "Will the planet notice that [difference]? Yeah you bet," he says. The new $2 to $15 levy may not cover the full $20 damage to the planet, but "it is a small step in the right direction."

It must be noted that Wagner does not advocate to stop flying, but he does believe we should all pay for the environmental damage we cause.

Tell us what you think about the new EU carbon fees in the comments section below. Do you agree with Wagner that we should pay for the damage we cause to the environment?