Photo via NY Times
Obama's much publicized, deficit-inducing budget has been pretty good for green--and very controversial among detractors. One headline-grabbing component of the budget is the fact that it has a built-in assumption that a cap and trade system will generate $645 billion in "climate revenue" for the US government. Now, Obama is angling to have his cap and trade installed during the budget reconciliation process—instead of introducing it as a bill to Congress—and it's led a bipartisan group of 28 US Senators to stage a formal protest. And unfortunately, they might have a point. The 28 Senators, who include some moderate Republicans, eight Democrats, and predictably, John McCain, wrote a protest letter (pdf) to the White House arguing that a complex measure like a carbon cap and trade system shouldn't be fast tracked in the budget process—it should be open to debate by all members of Congress.
An excerpt of the letter, via the NY Times:
"Enactment of a cap-and-trade regime is likely to influence nearly every feature of the U.S. economy," the senators wrote. "Legislation so far-reaching should be fully vetted and given appropriate time for debate, something the budget reconciliation process does not allow."
Carol Browner (Obama's climate advisor) has reportedly been pressing Obama to include the cap and trade system in the budget, due to the fear that any traditional legislation for a cap and trade wouldn't be able to win the requisite 60 votes needed to pass without a filibuster.
All this raises quite the ethical doosie (yes, I said doosie): if a properly introduced cap and trade bill wouldn't pass, and some measure must be taken by our government to fight climate change, do you push the bill through because it's the right thing to do? Or do we subject it to our time-consuming ordained democratic process, whilst more greenhouse gas emissions get spewed into the atmosphere, unchecked all the while?
I know the proposed cap and trade system is far from perfect—but we desperately need our government to indicate that it's serious about managing carbon emissions. A flat out carbon tax is unlikely at this point—and the sulfur cap and trade imposed in the mid 90s has been fairly successful. And it's at least vital to starting a genuine dialogue in government on how to cope with carbon.
But squeeze a measure through the system without it receiving proper Congressional approval, and you risk seeming a little like another recent president—one who was well known for having an aversion to the democratic process. What was his name again?
Then again, climate change is perhaps the gravest threat to long term national well being. Alas. What to do, what to do? It's a doosie indeed.
More on Obama's Cap and Trade: