Against Cap-and-Trade, for a Carbon Tax: Let’s Get Specific

The powerful World Wildfire Federation comes out unabashedly against cap-and-trade, issues harshly critical report entitled Emission Impossible:

Emission Impossible looks at the carbon reduction plans of nine EU member states (UK, Germany, Poland, Ireland, France, Spain, Netherlands, Portugal and Italy) and estimates that 88-100% of these countries’ combined emissions reductions targets under the scheme could be met by buying credits from outside the EU.

Dr Keith Allott, head of WWF-UK’s Climate Change Programme said: "There is a real danger that this will lock the EU in to high carbon investments and soaring emissions for many years to come. If the ETS is to fulfil its potential, we must ensure it leads to real carbon emission reductions within Europe. Climate change is an urgent priority, and we can’t afford to waste another five years before we get Europe’s emissions on a downward path."

And Time’s Joe Klein, author of the book that became the movie Primary Colors, crunches the numbers offered by Al Gore and comes up with what the proposal would look like in real life as a carbon tax…or, more likely, as a cap-and-trade proposal:

In his March congressional testimony, Gore laid out a comprehensive series of proposals to combat global warming. With the help of Robert Socolow, a Princeton professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering who is a carbon-emissions expert, I’ve made Gore’s general policy prescriptions specific:

— A $30-per-ton tax on carbon dioxide emissions (which comes to 25 cents per gal. of gasoline and 2 cents per kW-h of electricity), with the proceeds going to payroll-tax relief.
— Higher fuel-efficiency standards for auto manufacturers. Socolow’s goal is 60 m.p.g. by 2056.

— A $45-per-bbl. floor on petroleum, in order to ensure alternative-energy providers with a stable market.

— A moratorium on new coal-fired power plants, at least until new carbon-scrubbing techniques are perfected.

— A cap-and-trade system of controlling carbon emissions, in which major carbon producers—oil companies, public utilities—would have to pay for the right to pollute above a certain level. Those that reduced their pollution below their quota would be able to sell their excess capacity to companies that exceeded their quotas. The amount of pollution permitted would gradually be reduced over time.

Of this wish list, the cap-and-trade idea and the $45-per-bbl. price for oil are the most likely to succeed politically. All Democrats running for President, several Republicans and even some major industries, including Duke Energy and General Motors, favor a serious cap-and-trade program. The days of $45-per-bbl. oil are probably over, in any case.

But buyer beware: the higher energy prices likely to result from these programs will be passed along to you, with alacrity, by the energy companies.

Global warming is, of course, global. But it will be difficult to persuade countries like China and India to do anything about the problem if the U.S. doesn’t practice some benign unilateralism and take the first step. In 2008 no Presidential candidate should get away with stumping for "energy independence" without addressing both the carrots and, specifically, the sticks that will be needed.

According to a recent Time poll, that will take some courage: only 35% of the public says it is willing to pay higher taxes to fight global warming.

Ah, I love the smell of new statistics in the morning…


Published by Kit Stolz

I'm a freelance reporter and writer based in Ventura County.

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