James Pethokoukis

Politics and policy from inside Washington

How Goldman Sachs is hurting cap-and-trade

July 20, 2009

My sources have been unrelentingly negative about the chances of a cap-and-trade bill getting passed, but far less so about a renewable energy standard on electricity providers. So any suggestion to split the Waxman-Markey approach into separate cap-and-trade and RES bills, as  Sen. Byron Dorgan is doing,  is a big negative for capandtraders.  It’s also amazing to see how the current anti-Wall Street sentiment is hurting cap-and-trade because of the perceptions that financial firms will make a mint in the trading of emission permits. Here is a bit from a recent Dorgan op-ed piece:

For those who like the wild price swings in the oil futures market, the unseemly speculation in mortgage backed securities or the exotic and risky financial products such as credit default swaps that pushed our economy into the ditch, this cap and trade plan will be the answer to their prayers.

Just last year, speculators overwhelmed the oil futures market, and every day they were trading 20 to 25 times more oil than was being produced. That speculation drove the price of oil from $60 to $147 a barrel and gasoline to more than $4 a gallon.

Then the same speculators forced the price back down and made money in both directions. The American public paid the price for it.

And remember the financiers who wallpapered America with risky derivatives and credit default swaps that they traded in dark markets before the financial collapse last year? We shouldn’t need a second expensive lesson in how manipulation in financial markets can hurt our country.

Don’t’ get me wrong. I like free markets. But given recent history, I have little confidence that the large financial markets are free or fair enough to trust them with a new, large cap-and-trade carbon securities market.

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