Saturday, December 5, 2009

Cap and/or Trade

Did anyone else notice how we went from "any climate change legislation is off the table" to "cap and trade or nothing else" without any public discussion? Rep. Boehner (R-Crazytown) says this to cap and trade legislation: "Hell, no!" For once, though, I think he may have a point. Annie Leonard, of Story of Stuff, has this to say about cap and scam:

She's so casual and well-spoken.
She must be right. (Transcript with references.)

Some environmental groups are behind this, though. Should we let perfect be the enemy of good? I think in this case this is another system that gives control of our world to corporate interests. Like allowing them to patent naturally occurring genes. Further, it hasn't been shown to decrease the bad stuff. Carbon emissions actually have gone up (or gone down) in Europe since they instituted cap and trade. (Remember when PGE left the Chamber of Commerce over the latter's opposition to cap and trade? What they didn't tell you is that under the current bill, utilities like PGE get free permits! This is true in Europe as well.)

Whenever I find myself agreeing with Sarah Palin on something, I pause to reconsider. Which is another part of how clever this plan is. No environmentalist wants to find themselves in the same camp as the pro-pollution crowd. Thankfully, some have seen through the (deliberate?) obfusation and are doing something. Common Dreams has a good article about it here.

Cap and trade worked for sulfur dioxide, though, which is the reason you haven't heard about acid rain in a while. (Acid rain levels are down 65% since 1976.) In addition to the government auctioning off fewer pollution permits, environmental groups have purchased more than 14,000 tons of sulfur dioxide permits, which is clever. (It's like a temperance advocate buying booze to keep it out of the hands of would-be imbibers. Except it makes sense.)

There are a couple differences between sulfur dioxide in the groovy 1990's and greenhouse gases today. In the 1990's, if you ran a coal plant, you could listen to Nirvana's latest album and install scrubbers (a technology that already existed), or switch to low-sulfur coal. Further, the sulfur market only a applied to a few hundred plants, not the entire economy. I stole those points from this article, by the pro-business Institute for Energy Research, so they are probably wrong.

Lastly, balance your view with this article from the generally respectable Grist in favor of cap and trade. As a bonus, they have not one, but two articles replying to "The Story of Cap and Trade." One of them compares it to a "circular firing squad." Now I'm really confused. A lot of this falls into a familiar scenario: Leonard argues against what cap and trade will likely be, while Grist defends what it could be, in its best incarnation. Both important sides to consider while you plant trees, make biochar, bicycle to work, and blockade coal plants.

(As a post-script, I've heard it alleged anti-environment lobbyists pay people to search the Internet for any article about global warming and post lies. I don't get many comments here, so any pro-pollution comments will be suspect. That seems reasonable.)

Bonus articles: Cap and trade will work, won't work, it depends, and won't work.

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