Every unit of pollution released into the environment by human activities, beginning with the first unit, should be taxed or penalized. Whether the pollutant is emitted as a natural part of the production process or as a result of an accident, each unit should be taxed at the same rate. Generally, penalties should be directly proportional to the amount of pollution and penalizing each unit (of any given pollutant) at the same rate is the fairest, simplest, and most effective way to reduce pollution from all sources, whether they be point, non-point, or mobile sources of pollution. Each type of pollutant should be penalized at different unit rates because each pollutant negatively impacts the environment in a different way and to a different degree. The per-unit penalty for each pollutant should be set through agreement between scientists, government and industry, perhaps during discussions taking place during industry congress meetings.
There should be no such things as allowable emission levels, mandatory pollution caps, emission permits, emission trading, pollution credits, etc. Everybody should be allowed to pollute as much as they want, so long as they pay the fixed penalty for each unit they release. If the penalties for each unit of pollution are set correctly, there would be no significant pollution crisis. If there is a pollution crisis, we can simply increase the per-unit penalty for that pollutant or, only with extremely valid reasons, we could use an exponential pollution fine structure (where a higher rate is paid for each additional unit of pollution released) as opposed to a proportional one.
Each unit of natural gas that is flared should be charged a tax as should also each component of the various pollutants discharged with that natural gas. The idea is to encourage the capture and sale of this non-renewable resource, because we are definitely going to wish we hadn’t wasted so much of it so frivolously when we are on the down slope of the global production curve.