To Cap or Not to Cap (and Trade)?


Photo via Eco Friendly Mag

That is the, well, you know. I just finished reading the lively (and aggravating) debate on cap and trade hosted by Salon last week, and it reminded me of what dire straits we're in when it comes to US climate change policy. Many feel that cap and trade is the best option available to limit carbon emissions, and, yes, there are reasons why many others have legitimate concerns with such a system. But in an ideological debate over the mechanism's merits -- especially one on a 'left vs right" platform -- you often don't hear much from the opposition other than the repetition of keywords like "energy tax" and "job-killing". But it turns out that argument was strong enough to potentially banish good clean energy and climate legislation for years to come. To get a good idea why, just skim the final day of the debate, which was held between Grist's Dave Roberts and Steve Everley of American Solutions. Or read the whole thing. But I can save you some time with my unofficial, totally unauthorized, abridged version:

Dave Roberts: Cap and trade is a relatively inexpensive, pretty efficient, market-based solution for limiting carbon emissions that, disregarding political opportunism, should be embraced by the left and right alike.

Steve Everley: No, cap and trade is a job-killing energy tax.

DR: Well, that's the standard line from the GOP against the concept, we're all aware of that, but --

SE: Job killing energy tax.

DR: It seems to be the best and fairest way to encourage industry to address the looming threat of climate change. Unless, you don't think climate change is a problem?

SE: No, I do.

DR: Then how do you propose we confront it?

SE: Certainly not with a job-killing energy tax.

Obviously, I had some fun with that. But if you go read the entire debate, you might be surprised to how accurately that sums it up -- and how it exemplifies the GOP's stance towards cap and trade. Witness the repeated keywords and a dearth of actual ideas on how to secure America's energy future, and policy suggestions that amount to little more than continued reliance on fossil fuels.

The stunning thing is, Everley says he believes climate change is real (many GOP politicians either refute that or claim ignorance), and still refuses to give any ground towards any sort of policy that would seriously address it.

The greater point is, for now, Everley's side has won. Repeating those keywords and circulating the misinformation that cap and trade would devastate the economy has created a loaded battlefield that our timid, 'moderate' senators are afraid to enter as they gear up for November -- even if the clear majority of Americans are currently in favor of the policy goals the Senate clean energy and climate bill would accomplish.

But consider this: if we don't get comprehensive energy legislation that prices carbon now, as in before November, it's likely going to be years before we do -- the Tea Party-fueled candidates that sweep into office (if they do) are unlikely to have 'fight climate change' high on the to-do list. And the Democratic majorities may either be nonexistent or too small to pass good energy legislation. The US now has a few months to triumph over a handful of misleading keywords -- I wish I could say I was confident we could do it ...

More on Cap and Trade
Cap and Trade Explained in Under Four Minutes (Video)
Cap and Trade Won't Break the Bank: Climate Bill Would Actually Reduce Deficit

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