Why cap-and-trade is ‘dead policy walking’

November 18, 2009

Carbon cap-and-trade legislation appears to be Dead Policy Walking in Washington. The devaluation of the Copenhagen climate summit – now the goal is a “politically binding” rather than a “legally binding” agreement — reflects the emerging political reality in the United States. Yes, a bill did pass the House of Representatives in June. Also, the Senate Environment and Public Works committee passed a version earlier this month. So President Barack Obama won’t go to the talks in Denmark with empty pockets next month.

Publicly, Senate Democratic leaders say they are only pushing off debate and consideration of a comprehensive climate change bill until spring. But it is hard to get a major bill passed in a Democrat-controlled Senate when the Democratic majority leader of the Senate wants the bill to go away. And have no doubt that Senator Harry Reid would like to see cap-and-trade go away — or at least disappear until after 2010.

This explains why six different Senate committees will consider the bill, the same recipe for legislative inaction that bogged downhealthcare reform. It’s pure politics. The 2010 midterm elections are shaping up to be tough contests for many Democrats thanks to the anti-incumbent mood of a recession-weary electorate. And most signs point to a sustained level of high unemployment.  As Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said in a recent speech, “The best thing we can say about the labor market right now is that it may be getting worse more slowly.”

A new Gallup poll finds that 51 percent of Americans see the weak economy or high unemployment as their biggest concerns. Barely 3 percent mention the environment. And Democrats have been unable to sell cap-and-trade as a job creator. At worst, the public sees it as a jobs killer or a costly energy tax. That charge has particular weight in Reid’s home state, Nevada, a high energy-use state. (All those air conditioners!) So Reid doesn’t want to have to vote for it, which he would be compelled to do as majority leader. And neither do moderates like MaryLandrieu, Blanche Lincoln, Mark Pryor, Debbie Stabenow and Jim Webb. They noticed the heat that centrist House members who voted for cap-and-trade took from constituents during Congress’ summer break.

Webb of Virginia may point to one path forward with a new bill he is co-sponsoring with Lamar Alexander, a Tennessee Republican. It would spend $20 billion on five mini-Manhattan Projects to study various clean energy technologies, including nuclear.

It’s a plan that seems more likely to create jobs, grow the economy and help the environment — at least more so than one completely out of sync with the electorate. And it is one also more likely to make it into law. Despite being subjected to years of hectoring from the media, entertainment industry and government, the American public clearly has no appetite for any climate-change plan that involves more taxes, more regulation and a possible lower standard of living.

And if cap-and-trade is dead for 2009 and 2010, it probably has little hope of reviving in 2011 or beyond when Congress is unlikely to be as Democratic or as green.

22 comments

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If cap-and-trade is DOA, then America has dodged a bullet. Unfortunately, the Obama administration still has plenty of ways to kill the economy.

2010 can’t get here fast enough…

Posted by jersey7 | Report as abusive

[...] are not going to try aggressive climate change measures at this time, Copenhagen or no Copenhagen.Close Forward this [...]

All I can say is – Please God, let James P be right! What a moronic, piece-of-crap, economy-destroying piece of legislation!

Posted by Dave Minnich | Report as abusive

It can’t possibly be dead enough

Posted by bandit | Report as abusive

AFTER China and India stop their polluting ways, then maybe…MAYBE…the U.S. can get on board with some kind of program.

Yes, I’m being deliberately vague here, because until the worst offenders make meaningful progress toward a solution, there should be no U.S. participation in this cap-and-trade B.S.

Posted by Jack Davis | Report as abusive

In case anyone has forgotten the EPA has already indicated that it would soon begin to impose carbon emission caps on its own should there be no legislation coming from Congress. It should be clear by now that this administration cares not one bit what the public thinks, for it believes it knows what’s best and that the public will eventually come around and understand that is so.

The EPA will begin slowly but it will incrementally and unilaterally start to create rules to curb emissions. As it waits to apply those rules due to court challenges look for the agency to scrutinize power plants for any and all violations of existing pollution rules, punishing utilities with fines and sanctions in an effort to warn other industries to get on board with the program or face similar scrutiny.

There is a reason this administration is known for using “Chicago Rules” and we have only begun to see what that means.

Posted by Peter | Report as abusive

The Dems are significantly behind the public opinion trajectory on this. Popular support for AGW saw the high water mark about 2 years ago. A lot of that is the economy, but people also are aware that the climate data for the last few years does not fit the alarmist template.

And people move on. AGW is only the largest of what could be called “scare fads.” 70′s global cooling, the hole in the ozone layer, acid rain, Y2K, bird flu, and now, swine flu. The list goes on. All of them hyped BS built around a kernel of scientific fact. (I could add ADD, dislexia, Autism, Agent Orange, you get the picture. All catastrophies with an ready-made interest group behind them.)

Posted by Big Mac | Report as abusive

Too bad. I was hoping a robust Dem effort to pass Cap & Trade would be the final nail in their coffin. It’s not just that it’s terrible legislation to combat a non-existant problem…it’s the utter cynicism of the bill. The bill does virtually nothing to reduce our CO2 emissions (which is why the Sierra Club and other environmental groups oppose it), while raising $650B in new taxes. The bill is nothing more than a gross tax hike disguised as a green moral cause. And the Dem pols like Gore KNOW IT.

Posted by JohnR | Report as abusive

Certainly, I hope C&T is dead; as I hope the same for Obamacare.

In any event, conservative, I’m looking forward to the 2010 elections with anticipatory glee.

Posted by LoachDriver | Report as abusive

By & large agree with Big Mac’s assessment that most of the environmental threats of the last several decades have been hyped nonsense, I a Viet-Nam War veteran take exception to classifying Agent Orange in the over hyped category.

I was perhaps fortunate in having been seriously WIA by gunshot in a firefight, because it got me out of Viet-Nam, lessening my exposure to the chemical. OTOH, as a chopper pilot I wasn’t at high risk of exposure to it in the first place. But looking back, it was in fact really bad stuff.

I don’t know it for a fact, but I suspect an old comrade of whom I was fond died of cancer induced by Agent Orange. Consequently, to the day I die I’ll retain a dislike for it.

Posted by LoachDriver | Report as abusive

[...] Cap-and-Trade Is ‘Dead Policy Walking’ (Reuters – James Pethokoukis Political Risk Blog) Filed under Cap-and-Trade, News, Politics [...]

The global warming movement’s top spokesman was on tv the other night. He proved his complete lack of scientific knowledge there: http://wattsupwiththat.com/2009/11/16/go re-has-no-clue-a-few-million-degrees-her e-and-there-and-pretty-soon-were-talking -about-real-temperature/

Posted by Mkelley | Report as abusive

It is a really sad state of affairs, when the only “good” thing one can say of nation’s politicians is that they are too scared politically (of being re-elected to the trough) to pass a bill that will destroy the country’s economy and devastate lives of people who’s interests these politicians are supposedly looking after (isn’t THAT what the bastards were elected for?)

Posted by DN | Report as abusive

Truthfully we have to do something before oil peaks and getting pollution under wraps can’t be a bad thing. I agree this thought process! I must say that it should be market driven instead of government ran. Really all this bill does is charge companies more money that to do exactly what they were doing before and who pays for that? the consumer. Same goes for residential. If people with clunkers could afford better emissions vehicles than they would probably have them.

Yes go green but do it on your own without it being enforced by a broken government.

Posted by Berecca | Report as abusive

BEFORE peakoil? It’s already come and gone sir.

Posted by Dane | Report as abusive

Newsflash short-sighted geniuses,
the U.S. is the #1 carbon polluter per capita by leaps and bounds. Your proposition to wait until China and India do something about their pollution is ignorant at best. China has quickly become the world leader in green energy investments, with major solar and wind power plants breaking ground in 2009.
The short-sitedness is not understanding the implications of continuing to operate under the same status quo and what economic consequences it will have on you in the long term. In 10, 20, and 30 years, when there are water and food shortages, and massive relocations of coastal populations due to climate change, and the cost of living escalates at 30% a year, you will look back at your decisions today and regret the lack of sacrifice.

Please, please, please educate yourselves on the real threat of climate change before opening your mouth on the economy. The notion that we can pollute as much as we want and throw away material trash at no cost to us is .

Additionally, it is proven that expanding renewable energy sources and energy efficiency projects creates far more jobs locally than continuing to purchase fossil fuels from foreign countries. Voting against climate legislating is voting for depressing our economy by sending our money to foreign countries, nevermind the hostility those nations feel towards us. Improvements in recent technology have shown that reducing energy consumption is very easy to do, and it is good for business, with ROI (or paybacks) in under 3 years for many investments.

Posted by kevin | Report as abusive

I agree with Peter. EPA is going to come up with a plan under the Clean Air Act that will make cap and trade look reasonable. Former Energyand Commerce Chairman John Dingell (who has a charming way of telling the truth) called it a “glorious mess.” Either way we’re screwed.

Posted by Scott | Report as abusive

Where we define Ram it through as having the support of the majority of the congress, including Lindsey Graham.

[...] stand. A vote for cap-and-trade legislation is nothing more than political suicide at this point. Which is why it's all but dead at this point. It's clear the OP doesn't even understand the arguments opponents are making at this point. It's [...]

Giving value to something that inherently has no value carbon credits is how financial bubbles start. Good riddance.

Good this job killing debacle should go away!

now if only Australia would take note instead of trying to ram it through our parliament before Cophenhagen

Republican pollster Frank Luntz has an interesting approach -”The First Rule of Fighting Climate Change: Don’t Talk About Climate Change:. As it happens, many advocates of climate legislation have already started moving in the direction that Luntz is proposing. The cap-and-trade bill that passed the House last year is titled the “American Clean Energy and Security Act,” and the version currently circulating in the Senate version is called the “Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act.”

Carbon cap-and-trade legislation appears to be Dead Policy Walking in Washington. The devaluation of the Copenhagen climate summit – now the goal is a “politically binding” rather than a “legally binding” agreement — reflects the emerging political reality in the United States. Yes, a bill did pass the House of Representatives in June. Also, the Senate Environment and Public Works committee passed a version earlier this month. So President Barack Obama won’t go to the talks in Denmark with empty pockets next month.

Posted by RogerDell | Report as abusive