Photo credit: Señor Codo via Fotopedia/CC BY-SA 3.0
Since proper comprehensive climate and clean energy legislation has crashed and burned, the task of holding the nation's biggest carbon polluters has fallen to the EPA. The EPA will begin regulating these emitters starting in January, and the air pollution permitting process is already underway. But not all of the details of how the regulatory framework has been set in stone. In fact, the EPA is considering instituting a smaller sort of cap and trade, to help polluting industries buffer the costs. Yes, I said help. I know it's been pounded into the American subconscious that anything relating to cap and trade would be some sort of an expensive energy tax, but that's simply not the case. Such a system would be far preferable to a straightforward fine system. The EPA is only set to regulate polluting industries that emit over 4,000 tons of greenhouse gases a year, but giving those companies effective a flexible pathway to reducing emissions is still a chief concern.
EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson spoke to Politico about what such a scheme would entail:
Hoping to give industry some cushion on costs, EPA is also studying its options for setting up a cap-and-trade program in which regulated companies could buy and sell pollution permits based on how much they've cleaned up their facilities. But Jackson insisted any cap-and-trade system would not be as ambitious as what Congress authorized EPA to set up in the early 1990s to deal with acid rain emissions from power plants, let alone the climate bills that died this year under a cloud of controversy.Yet another cruel reminder of how warped our politics have become that cap and trade -- an efficient, market-driven approach to reducing emissions on a large scale, and a policy idea crafted by Republicans in the 90s -- is now thought of as some socialistic taxation tool. In this case, when facing the alternative, companies will lunge at the chance to have a cap instated; it will provide further financial incentives for lowering emissions. It will be a less painful way for major emitters to reduce their pollution, and perhaps even profit by doing so.
We're going to try as much as possible to give flexibility," she said. "One of the most flexible programs we've ever had is a true cap-and-trade program. We can't replicate that, but we can certainly look at opportunities.