James Pethokoukis

Politics and policy from inside Washington

3 reasons why cap-and-trade is in trouble

September 8, 2009

The man who will almost certainly become Japan’s next prime minister, Yukio Hatoyama, is promising to cut the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent from 1990 levels by 2020.

That is a far more ambitious target that can be found in the legislation currently making its way through Congress. The cap-and-trade bill passed by the House of Representatives would trim U.S. emissions by 17 percent from 2005 levels. That translates to around a 6 percent cut from 1990 levels.

But even that lesser reduction seems unlikely to happen anytime soon. Climate change legislation faces a tough road in the Senate, and it may get pushed back to 2010 or beyond.

Cap and trade is, like healthcare reform, in trouble, and for many of the same reasons:

- There doesn’t seem to be an acute crisis. Polls show that the vast majority of Americans are satisfied with their healthcare. Reasons for complacency can also be found in recent developments in climate change. A new NASA study notes global temperature increases have stalled out this decade, likely because of decreasing solar irradiance.

Obviously some dire event, such as a terrible swine flu season or a brutal spike in temperatures, could refocus public attention and concern. But for now there doesn’t seem to be an emergency to motivate either voters or lawmakers.

- Most people won’t see an immediate benefit. Proposed changes in the U.S. healthcare system wouldn’t immediately change the current insurance coverage of most Americans, despite new government spending and higher taxes. Likewise, cutting carbon emissions will likely incur big costs today with any tangible benefits coming later this century. During a recession, neither provides the sort of cost-benefit analysis that strapped Americans are likely to find compelling.

- Both plans seem off point. If you asked Americans what was the biggest problem facing America, polls show, the most common answer would probably be unemployment rather than healthcare or the environment. And that is one problem, at least as gauged by the unemployment rate, seemingly getting worse rather than better.

To quote the man who jumped from a burning airplane with no parachute, “First things first!” Americans seem to agree.

Given a possible weak economic recovery and worker anxiety about jobs, neither a strong cap-and-trade climate change bill, nor a carbon tax bill, may happen anytime soon.

Instead, a better option might be more government-funded research into technological fixes. The Bjorn Lomborg-led Copenhagen Consensus recently released a list of proposals — such as marine cloud whitening and carbon storage — that could give more bang for the buck than new regulation and taxes.

If politics is the art of the possible, new green technology may be all that environmentalists can realistically expect from America.

Comments

This commentary proves, or at least brings to light, an important deficiency in American thinking – the old Mantra ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’. The trouble is the best time to re-evaluate and tweak something is not when it’s kaput, but before. The mindset is that something can be fixed after it’s kaput. That, simply put, is illogical. Firstly, it’s almost certain to cost MORE when it’s busted. Secondly, the solution finally arranged will be more like a shotgun wedding of proposals rather than a thought out and well planned initiative. This is probably why Americans are so reticent to change, because the only change they ever see is these ugly and forced procedures.

Now, a large minority may not agree with the science behind climate change, but waiting for a potential catastrophe to ‘prove’ the case one way or the other is a very limited way of looking at things. On the other hand, pushing initiatives – maybe slowly and painlessly at first – towards change the majority sees as positive can only lead to a better tomorrow, and help us get there more cheaply. The same can be applied to healthcare; the rest of the western world has universal healthcare of some form and they have collapsed at all under it. And, arguably, countries like France, UK, Germany, Canada, etc., have programs that outperform the America system hands down. Why wait until tomorrow to fix healthcare while it’s still fairly healthy (but getting worse) today, and the changes can be made gradually and cheaper.

With all that being said, I don’t think cap-and-trade has any real value, it’s just a new toy for Wall Street to play with and fund raising for the government at the same time. A MUCH better solution would involve city planning and infrastructure development for sprawl cities, and a straight fuel tax that brings America’s gasoline price in line with the rest of the western world. That will create tonnes of jobs, make cities more efficient and reduce gas consumption while raising a little bit of tax revenue. And the Wall Street boys can still play speculating on the constuction companies and suppliers – not so sinister as trading emissions in my opinion.

So to recap: ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ is crap; healthcare should be addressed before it gets worse (re: more expensive to fix); cap-and-trade is a scam; all America really needs is to spend on infrastructure improvement, serious improvement, but still…

Posted by the Shah | Report as abusive
 

I do wish people would learn more about the bill before saying it’s a bad idea. One resource: http://www.wri.org/stories/2009/08/clima te-change-legislation-myths-and-reality

Posted by Carol | Report as abusive
 

~ THE LOUD LAUGH OF SATAN WAS HEARD IN THE PEOPLES HALLS OF U.S. CONGRESS AND AMERICAN RELIGIOUS LEADERS HAVE TURNED THEIR HEADS,CLOSED THEIR EYES AND SHUT THEIR EARS IN FEAR ~

THIS OLD WORLD ORDER OF ABUSE AND NEGLECT OF OUR POORER AMERICANS NEEDS ENLIGHTENED POLITICAL MINDS AND HEARTS TO VIEW GOD DIFFERENTLY THEN $$$…. NO MATTER WHAT THEIR POLITICAL PARTY AFFILIATION ???

WHEN WILL OUR WEALTHY ELITE AMERICANS ABATE THEIR ASSAULT ON POORER AMERICANS WITH THEIR MONETARY CONTROL OF OUR IVORY TOWER U.S. CONGRESSIONAL LEADERS OF THE NEW WORLD ORDER ???

THERE ARE NOT MANY MORE DISTRACTIONS LEFT WHICH ARE AVAILABLE FOR OUR WEALTHY ELITE AMERICANS TO HIDE BEHIND IN NOT TAKING PROPER CARE OF ALL OUR AMERICANS IN A HUMANE FASHION !!!

RALPH NADER ATTEMPTED TO EDUCATE AMERICAN VOTERS ABOUT U.S. CORPORATE POWER IN AMERICA AND HOW THEY CONTROL OUR CONGRESSIONAL PEOPLE THROUGH THEIR POCKET BOOK (POLITICAL DONATIONS). * WITHOUT THE DOUGH $$$ THESE U.S. CONGRESSIONAL LEADERS OF THE FREE WORLD DO NOT GET RE~ELECTED TO CONGRESS.*TO STAY IN POLITICAL OFFICE IN AMERICA,ONE HAS TO BARTER YOUR VOTES IN CONGRESS AND REPRESENT POWER INTERESTS IN RETURN FOR THE BUCK$.

POORER AMERICANS HAVE NEVER HAD THE $$$ LOBBY TO INFLUENCE THIS CORRUPT POLITICAL CONCEPT (of horse trading political votes for political contributions) TO ACHIEVE PROPER HEALTH ~CARE OR LEGAL REPRESENTATION FOR ALL OUR MIDDLE ~ CLASS AND WORKING POOR AMERICANS.

AMERICAN IVORY TOWER U.S.CONGRESSIONAL LEADERS OF THE FREE WORLD HAVE PASSED FEDERAL LEGISLATION IN WASHINGTON DC TO SPEND 50 BILLION AMERICAN TAX $$$ ON THE INTERNATIONAL FIGHT AGAINST AIDS OVER THE NEXT FIVE YEARS WHILE THEIR OWN AMERICAN CITIZENS ARE BEING TOLD BY THIS SAME U.S.CONGRESS THAT NATIONAL HEALTH CARE AND PROPER LEGAL REPRESENTATION FOR MIDDLE CLASS AND WORKING POOR CITIZENS IS UNAFFORDABLE.

*** WEALTHY ELITE AMERICANS (WHO ARE ONLY 1% OF OUR USA POPULATION) SADLY ALSO CONTROL HOW OUR U.S.CONGRESS SPENDS THEIR BUDGET TRILLION$ AND HAVE OBVIOUSLY FOUND MORE WORTHY INTERNATIONAL CITIZENS THEN OUR OWN DESPERATE AND NEEDY POOR TO ASSIST !!!

~Poorer Americans Nationwide only get 400 million $$$ per year for legal representation allocated them by CONGRESS~

Middle Class and Working Poor Americans are unable to afford proper legal representation in their Civil, Criminal and Family Courts of law all across America causing tremendous hardships nationwide,but these great minds and callous hearts in our American Congress have found others Worldwide more needy then their own citizens who are being falsely incarcerated,wrongfuly executed,losing their homes or apartments,losing child custody or visitation with their children etc� Not being afforded proper legal representation by our U.S. Congress has created a total breakdown of the American judicial system for our poorer Americans because the our U.S. Courts punish all of us little people if we are not assisted with proprer legal counsel.

*It is a known fact that our average Middle Class and Working Poor Americans without proper legal representation in all of our American Courts of law lose their legal cases to the better financed who are able to afford lawyers.

Lawyers For Poor Americans is now actively in the hunt for International Countries and Leaders Worldwide to help raise 5 Billion Dollar$ for our slighted poorer Americans who have had their own American Congress turn their backs on their desperate needs in not affording them proper legal representation.

Troy Davis and Mumia Abu ~ Jamal are 2 perfect examples of American citizens who never had proper legal representation or defense investigations afforded them by our U.S. Congressional Leaders Of The Free World in their initial criminal trials in (Georgia and Pennsylvania) who might very well have to pay the ultimate price of possibly being completely innocent and falsely executed in the near future. These two poorer Americans are among tens of thousands of legal cases nationwide that never were afforded proper legal representation or proper defense investigations at their initial trials……**We the public really have no idea if these men are innocent or guilty until they both are given fair legal representation at their new future trials.

Improper murder trials and needless deaths due to the lack of healthcare take place in Third World Countries all the time. *** Why should average Middle~Class and Working Poor Americans in the Wealthiest Country Of The World be treated as if they are living a Third World Life Style ??

This is the first of many www International pleas by Lawyers For Poor Americans for other leaders and countries to help raise the needed monie$ to correct these blatant injustices that have been inflicted on poorer Americans for the last few decades. Lawyers For Poor Americans has many other written articles that can be viewed with any www search engine by our name or our telephone number.

Lawyers For Poor Americans is a www lobby group of volunteers that sing out about the decades old neglect,abuse and injustices being inflicted on our poorer Americans that have become Crimes Against Humanity issues for the International World Court to investigate.

lawyersforpooreramericans@yahoo.com
(424-247-2013)

Posted by LAWYERS FOR POOR AMERICANS | Report as abusive
 

Support for cap-and-trade has evaporated. Daily I read editorials, comments and letters-to-the-editor from all over the nation. Whereas when the House passed the bill it was maybe 2-to-1 against cap-and-trade, opinion now is off the charts against it. The Senate will be wise to bury this unpopular, complex and risky legislation.

– Robert Moen, http://www.energyplanUSA.com

 

Why is cap and trade in trouble:

1. Carbon dioxide is not the enemy but the friend of all chloryphyll/oxygen producing green leaf plants in the world. Without carbon dioxide no oxygen is produced by plants, they first die, then all the inhabitants of the earth die within the next 5 minutes. If you look at say howard dumb the democratic organizer he actually went without oxygen for only 4 minutes and heeyaawww you see that he only has a brain that is 2% functional.

2. CRAP and tax is something that al gore thought of. He realized that really low IQ people (Union strikers, and acorn workers) would believe anything he said. So he’s trying to extort money from business and then in turn all people in the world pay $159 extra per month. al gore can then eat baby seal as he loves the blubber.

3. People just aren’t that stupid to believe what democrats say any more. They caused 911 so the Honorable Mr. Bush had to spend a trillion dollars kicking the talibans $$$. They forced banks at gun point to lend money to their consituents acorn workers and union strikers who are irresponsible. these loathsome parasites never paid their home mortgages causing the good americans and the rest of the world to lose 60% of their retirements. Now on average they have to work until they die or another 15 years whatever comes first.

Posted by rachel | Report as abusive
 

James, you mentioned swine flu in the same sentence as spiking temperatures as possible triggers to bring cap in trade back into focus among Americans.

Aside from the fact that the mythical spike is unlikely to happen, what in the world does swine flu have to do with “climate change”?

What turns people off is hysterical claims of impending doom linked no matter how tenuously to any headline event incredulously blamed on either “global warming” or George Bush. How many years can you dangle catastrophic “tipping points” in front of us and still expect us to take you seriously?

Posted by Harry Mallory | Report as abusive
 

Anonbert’s clues for the clueless (Global Warming)

Disclaimer: For mental health reasons, do not attempt to read this list in one sitting.

1. While there is evidence that man-made factors are influencing global tempreture, there is no way to say how this will effect the climate.

2. To believe that global warming will destroy or change civilisation is not based on science or fact. It assumes both that global warming will have an effect on climate, and this effect will be the worst case scenario of many potential consequences.

3. Even if a carbon reduction plan is put in place, it is laughable that we will achieve 40% emission reduction by 2020. Or even by 2050.

4. Global warming is caused by emissions. Hence even if we manage to reduce global emissions by 40%, logically this would only reduce global warming by 40%.

5. Until we can determine how to reduce emissions by more then 40%, we will neither stop, nor will we reverse, the effects of global warming.

6. Even if renewable energy is used in a sufficient capacity to provide baseload (already hard), it will cost far too much upkeep to also continue a viable economy.

7. A renewable energy industry can only exist when there is a polluting energy industry available to cover the gross inefficency of renewable power. Were green energy efficient, it would already dominate the market.

8. Germany, the leader of renewable power, has almost managed to provide 15% of it’s energy through renewable power. The rest, alas, is from fossil fuels and nuclear power stations located in France.

9. There is no way the third world is going to pay for green energy. They will insist the developed world pay. And we will already have trouble affording our own. And until we pay for the third world, we will never cut emissions.

10. Every day we spend trying to stop global warming, is a day we could have spent trying to live in a post-global warming world. Which is guaranteed to happen before we reach a green economy.

Posted by Anon | Report as abusive
 

Crap and tax is garbage. A foggy day and a public school isn’t sending kids to school.

Concerning baracs speech to the kids. Look, he originally was going to indoctrinate the kids and those questions like “How can you help president barac were removed”. Neil wortz is scolding republicans for being concerned about barac talking to kids. Look anyone with half a brain should be concerned. barac came from welfare, he associated with a terrorist who killed police officers, he bows to the king of saudi arabia, he hires van hones a green czar communist, the black caucus can’t praise cuba enough. barac is a communist/marxist and i for one would never want that commie talking to any of my family or friends. so republicans are right to not have their kids associate with barac… they don’t want little government (taxpayer) dependent commies in their families. It’s so disgusting these commies. Please recall years ago when the commies stood on the sidewalks of colleges trying to recruit..now their in the white house trying to indoctrinate. barac talks about hard work in school but he failed to mention that he was an affirmative action token and had his admission to harvard been based on scholastic intellect he never would have been admitted.

Posted by Sarah | Report as abusive
 

Cap and trade legislation was never widely supported among the American people. Congress needs to know that support has dropped even lower due to the disastrous negative consequences it will bring. Visit http://www.tinyurl.com/klfut8 to let Congress know.

 

I sure am glad the wooly mammoths weren’t liberals. My home would still be under a glacier.

 

I’m a skeptic but also one who’s willing to persuaded by a fair and thorough debate (you know, what Al Gore says is over).
Naturally, I’d rather be sure there IS a problem before wrecking the economy to “fix” it. That said, I’d rather see a straight carbon tax than that cap and trade scheme with ALL the proceeds going to alternative energy sources and technology to combat the problem.

That when it global warming proves to be a fraud, there won’t be as much opposition to eliminating the tax. If they start using the revenue to fund other, non related programs, we’ll never get rid of it.

Posted by Jim | Report as abusive
 

Cap and trade is simply a tax. It does absolutely nothing to the environment. If we truly need clean energy then we would us nuclear, the fact we are not means that there is not a crisis or problem. A micro amount of CO2 in the atmosphere is not going to cause global warming. But the excess solar storms that have been raging will. Finally, who ever said there was a problem with a warm earth? Only computer model made by people who feel that way.

As to socialized medicine, I am a retiring physician and hope it passes. The American people need what will come to be one of the worse health systems that ever existed. I can take care of myself and loved ones, can you?

Posted by David | Report as abusive
 

So I suppose you are all OK with the EPA regulating carbon emissions?

If nothing else will wake up corporate America, it is the fear of what is now beginning, the regulation of carbon emissions without legislation to protect emitters …

Sauder agrees to EPA order to comply with Clean Air Act

Release date: 09/09/2009
Contact Information: CONTACT: William Omohundro, 312-353-8254 , omohundro.william@epa.gov

For Immediate Release No. 09-OPA163

(Chicago, Ill. – Sept. 8, 2009) U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 5 has issued an administrative consent order to Sauder Woodworking Cogeneration Facility. The company has agreed to take immediate steps to comply with the Clean Air Act at the company’s furniture manufacturing plant at 502 Middle St., Archbold, Ohio.

see also other actions like:
http://www.epa.gov/EPA-AIR/2009/August/D ay-27/a20602.htm

Posted by DG | Report as abusive
 

I’m unfamiliar with specific legislation, only what has been discussed. I have a bad feeling about cap and trade. I can just imagine the corrupt games that will be played with this, resulting in a total failure to achieve its intent, and a substantial transfer of money from the innocent to the sleazy before it’s finally abandoned. Oh, it could work; I’m just not optimistic.

You know, if we do pay them for every year they don’t burn down the rainforest, we have to pay Kentucky every year for not burning all its coal. Or am I missing something?

I don’t agree with some of the comments. Costs of alternative energy are going down. 20 years ago, if you said you were going to operate a photovoltaic powerplant commercially, they’d have been rolling on the floor laughing, and wind turbines were strictly for hippies. Oh, yeah, and a cell phone was the size of a good dictionary and cost $2,000!!!

Posted by Pete Cann | Report as abusive
 

Wow so much stupity and ignorance in such a small space!

1) Nice bait and switch james, it almost makes up for your near total ignorance, actualy im just gonna call you stupid as far as health care goes, chances are though the nuance is gonna be lost on most.

2) for the love of god,PUT AWAY THE TINFOIL HATS! Global warming is not junk science, a myth, an Obama conspiracy or libral dogma being forced onto the masses durning presidential school speechs.

3) If your worried about corruption in Goverment Cap and Trade systems maybe you should idk, focus your attention on what has been happening in the last 8 years in the finacial sector…

Posted by eron | Report as abusive
 

The cap and trade was embraced by our liberal government in Canada. Fortunately they were defeated. The carbon tax was ill-conceived and perplexedly left the two new industrial powers China and India exempt. I’ve never met a liberal who saw a tax he didn’t like. While the environment is a concern, does it not seem arrogant that we are trying to reverse 5 billion years of ecology?

Posted by Drew | Report as abusive
 

“there doesn’t seem to be an acute crisis.” …this is because the majority of Americans do have healthcare. However, there is almost 80% support for a public option (that figure is consistent in numerous studies) because people, being human, are willing to help others in need. Secondly, the NASA study quoted shows temperature increases have stalled for THIS decade. The date is currently September 2009, leaving us with approximately three months left in the decade. The sun cannot be relied upon to change its irradiance in accordance with our needs. It is an extremely dynamic, unpredictable, and massively powerful system that changes every day. Within a few years (probably less) it will return to its full intensity and our problem, CO2, will not have changed.

“most people will not see an immediate benefit.”
Is this suddenly the factor by which we will determine whether or not to pass new world-changing legislation? The question is absurd: of course people will not see an immediate benefit, but that is irrelevant when considering the long term impacts of both plans. Both will ultimately remove massive burdens from our economy (the environmental issue will never be a burden if we move fast enough…health care is currently a massive drag holding down a significant percentage of our GDP). Our future as a nation may depend on the fate of these two plans; both are critically important for our survival.

Posted by isuer1 | Report as abusive
 

May I post another comment…

Public awareness is an effective tool too but why is that liberals want everybody to ‘do as I say and not as I do’?

Now I’m doing my part to stop the carbon footprint but what are you doing? You lefty liberals (Carol?). Everyone could play a part. Its called individual responsibility.

Smoking rates have decreased considerably over 50 years. Was this caused by government intervention (tax) or public awareness. Proof is take one of the American States with low cigarette prices, maybe Florida? and extrapolate the rates of smoking compared to a highly taxed state like New York. I would submit that they probably equal. Public awareness works.

Americans have been afforded the luxury of minimalist government intervention (or meddling). One thing I can tell you is people wish the government as a panacea. It’s not.

Posted by Drew | Report as abusive
 

2006 Smoking Rates: New York 18%, Florida 21%. Almost the same.

In a round about way, through several posts, I’m trying to demonstrate that public awareness works too, without the need for a useless tax.

But if Liberals wish to hammer away on our already embattled industrial base then that figures. The new information economy (so highly touted) means many more underemployed.

“Would you like fries with that, sir?”

Posted by Drew | Report as abusive
 

Any impact will come from technology to scrub CO2 from the atmosphere, not lower emissions. Only working to lower emissions to stop global warming is like taking your foot off the gas when you’re in a car headed down hill with no brakes. You might crash at a slower speed, but you still crash.

 

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