Keith learned on his tour that being one of the Ejected gave him the ability to travel anywhere, but he was still figuring out the details of how to be visible or invisible and heard or muted. Keith decided he should practice since he clearly didn’t have the settings optimized when he visited Ivy.
Keith reviewed his plan. The National Green Energy Policy bill had gone through the House and the Senate and was waiting to be signed into law by the president. He was going to sneak into the Government Printing Office that night and revise this energy policy to include a carbon tax. He needed to make sure he had the settings correct before then.
He looked around for Salomon or one of the other Ejected to help him figure out the settings in the realm, but he didn’t see anyone, so he decided he’d try to figure it out himself. He cautiously entered the control panel room and read the settings aloud to himself, “Location. Hmm. I’ve always wanted to visit the Eiffel Tower.” So, he typed in Eiffel Tower, Paris, France.
“Auto-think location,” read Keith next. “That sounds handy. Let’s go with that,” and he turned that setting on. The next setting was “Visible.” Under this setting, there were scores of other settings. Since he wasn’t quite sure what they did, he decided to just switch them all on. Then he closed his eyes and envisioned standing beneath the Eiffel Tower.
When he opened his eyes, he was thrilled to see the Eiffel Tower in front of him. He started to turn in a circle so he could take it all in. As he made a quarter turn, he realized that he must be visible because people were watching him, and they looked as excited as he was. He beamed at the crowd who couldn’t seem to take their eyes off him and proudly used his limited French to cheerfully say, “Bonjour!” to the people who were within earshot. As he gazed at the Eiffel Tower, he felt so alive that his skin tingled.
Suddenly, his elation turned to horror as he realized why his skin felt so tingly and why he was Mr. Popular. Somehow, Keith had transported himself sans clothing. Naked as a newborn, he stood beneath the most romantic icon in the world like some creepy exhibitionist.
He searched for a place to hide, but there were people in every direction. Throughout his life, he’d had a recurring nightmare that he would show up on the first day of school without clothes on. Only this time he wasn’t dreaming. He was actually naked in France!
He knew all he had to do was think of another location to get out of there since he had the “Auto-Think Location” setting turned on, so he closed his eyes and wished to be anywhere else. Apparently “anywhere” wasn’t specific enough because he remained beneath the symbol of love, drawing a growing, curious crowd that opted to stay a safe distance away.
All his panicked brain could think was, Oh, my God, oh, my God, oh, my God! School nightmare, school nightmare, school nightmare! Apparently, that was enough to transport him to Roosevelt Senior High. Fortunately, it was evening, so there weren’t people around to see his naked self. His mind was a little clearer now, and he realized that where he needed to go was back to the control room to figure out the sub-settings under appearance.
As Keith paced around the realm trying to calm himself, he recognized that he knew all of the arguments about why a carbon tax supposedly wasn’t good for the world, but he also knew that all of those arguments were deliberate deceptions motivated by greed. Since over eighty percent of U.S. energy consumption comes from natural gas, oil, and coal,27 the fossil fuels industry has it in their best interest to keep the country hooked, thought Keith.
Keith figured out using the model on his tour that a well-designed carbon tax could capture about ninety percent of U.S. emissions by taxing only several thousand taxpayers who could easily afford it.28 It’s beautiful. This way, the carbon tax doesn’t increase the cost of goods and services because the higher energy prices wouldn’t need to be passed on to consumers. But, even if prices increased, he didn’t see it as a negative outcome anymore. The increase would push markets and consumers to reduce their consumption, find alternatives and support renewables very quickly.
Keith reflected on how he used to argue that carbon taxes weren’t a “market-driven solution,” but he’d known all along that the true cost to the planet of extracting resources from the Earth, as well as the cost of shipping, processing, and the burning of fossil fuels, wasn’t being accounted for. Adding a carbon tax to reflect how much of an impact fossil fuels have on the world would be justice finally being served. It’s true that a few of his friends would lose a bit of money, but the smart ones would see the truth and invest in renewables. The fossil fuel industry is most definitely a huge problem, but it could also be the solution if they were to use their power for good. He had always thought that.
An argument that Keith knew was full of holes was that a carbon tax would damage American economic competitiveness by making it too expensive for companies to produce in this country. But, in reality, thought Keith, if we ruin our natural resources—upon which our personal health and economy are completely dependent—and live the nightmare I just experienced on the tour, that will be much worse for business.
Even if it did take the rest of the world a while to transition to a renewable economy, everyone would be forced to do so. Plus, if we propose border taxes for imports from countries without a carbon tax, Keith thought, that should take care of the economic competitiveness problem.
He decided that he wanted to be invisible and have his voice turned off so he didn’t accidentally cough or anything. After playing cupid in France without even the dignity of a diaper, Keith sought out Salomon to help him with his settings. Salomon also helped him figure out the building access logistics and accompanied him on the journey. They waited for nightfall so the Government Printing Office would be empty.
They successfully revised the energy bill to include an enormous carbon tax and also composed job transition plans so workers employed in fossil fuel industries could be retrained into clean energy jobs. He made the language clear that the revenue from the carbon taxes would be used for reducing greenhouse gases through energy conservation and creating clean energy infrastructure that included solar, wind, and geothermal energy sources, as well as car-charging stations spread across the country. Finally, the climate crisis was declared a national emergency which required nationwide mobilization to fight—similar to the WWII war effort.
Luckily, this president isn’t big on reading, thought Keith. He knew this president would just rely on an aide to tell him whether he should sign it. The aide will think she knows what’s in the bill, so she will advise him to move forward with it.
And so, it came to pass. A carbon tax was quietly slipped into law. No lawmakers complained because they didn’t want to admit that they hadn’t read the bill and didn’t know the carbon tax was in it. The carbon tax law took effect the next day. To the legislators’ surprise, the voters were in favor of the carbon tax. There was a refreshing feeling of solidarity to get the Ejected back home and most people realized that a carbon tax would help achieve this goal. So, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle claimed victory. It was beautiful.