John Kemp Great Debate– John Kemp is a Reuters columnist. The views expressed are his own –

President Barack Obama’s first budget puts climate change at the heart of the administration’s long-term economic plan. But despite the clear theoretical advantages of a simple carbon tax, he seems set to follow the EU and California in opting for a cap-and-trade system.

The budget plan commits the administration to work with Congress on an economy-wide emissions reductions program, based around cap-and-trade.

It also anticipates almost $650 billion in revenues over 10 years from selling these yet-to-be-agreed pollution permits, and proceeds to spend it on investment in clean technologies ($120 billion) and rebates for vulnerable families, businesses and communities ($525.7 billion).

In a sense the budget is a “wish list”. While federal law requires the president to submit a unified budget, there is no obligation for Congress to consider it line by line, or even use it as a starting point in the annual tax-writing and spending process.