The headlines read something like this: Obama Backs Off 100 Percent Auctioning. One element of the story is sure to follow: Environmentalists aren’t going to be happy! The question of 100 percent auctioning at the beginning of a national cap and trade system is one thing. But what I can’t abide is the pervasive notion that “environmentalists” are the only ones who should care. The fact is, the decision to auction permits or give them away for free affectsevery single citizen in the country.
The White House science adviser should know better. Here he is paraphrased in the Washington Post (emphasis mine):
The Obama administration might agree to postpone auctioning off 100 percent of emissions allowances under a cap-and-trade system to limit greenhouse gas pollution, White House science adviser John P. Holdren said today, a move that would please electricity providers and manufacturers but couldanger environmentalists.
Ah, yes, the “angry environmentalist.” It’s such a tired, old stereotype—but apparently an easy one even for the Post to blithely reinforce. But, leaving aside all the baggage that comes with the very term “environmentalist,” the thing is that in strictly environmental terms, the cap works the same way whether or not permits are free or auctioned. If environmentalists are angry, it’s for the same reason everyone should be: free permits are an unnecessary giveaway to big business, at the expense of ordinary families.
Find this article interesting? Support more research like this with a gift!
With an auction system, communities can gain a source of revenue to invest in clean energy, help consumers deal with rising energy costs, boost efficiency in homes and buildings, ease transitions for affected workers, and fund training in green-collar jobs. On the other hand, if permits are given out for free companies will raise prices and simply pocket the extra money at the expense of individual consumers.
Making this a decision in which only greens and business interests have a stake vastly diminishes the true breadth of the issue. After all, it’s not just environmentalists who dream of a better future for their kids. It’s not just environmentalists who want jobs in their communities. It’s not just environmentalists who want to unhitch our economy from the burdens (and geopolitical dangers) of fossil fuel dependence. And it’s certainly not just tree-huggers and greens who’d rather invest in our families and our communities than write giant personal checks to Big Oil.
In cap and trade, auctioning is a pocketbook issue, not a green one. Done right, auctioning can protect everyone’s financial interests; while grandfathering (free permits) is typically a recipe for massive corporate giveaways—something that everyone, not just “environmentalists,” should be opposed to.
Excellent point! The question is one of social justice, not “greenieness”.Of course, as you point out, the media system will always prefer burying the social nature of this kind of question.
Yeah. A “good” news story looks for the conflict. In this case enviros vs. business—which is a classic (often false) dichotomy. It’s unfortunate that Obama officials are falling into the same trap. It makes it too easy for the journalists to tell the same tired story. This is especially frustrating at a time when public opinion has begun to see how economic prosperity and a healthy environment are linked, not in permanent opposition.
I agree with many of your points. But I don’t read the Post article as saying that Holdren said “could anger environmentalists.” Holdren said the administration might back off from 100% auctioning, and the reporter characterized that position as likely to anger environmentalists.
Thanks, Sean.You’re right it’s not a direct quote from Holdren. But the very words kept coming up in a range of coverage—so what I thought was merely a Washington Post invention seems to be something more. I will poke around to see if I can’t find the quote. Meanwhile, here’s another story where those words come through. It’s possible it’s just the news echo from the Post.
I think it’s the echo – or the tendency of reporters at other services to be very lazy! I think it would be strange politically for Holdren to characterize the administration’s position as likely to anger environmentalists. But it’s interesting that it is reported over and over the same way.
Good points, y’all!It’ll be interesting to keep track of how this journalistic spin evolves, as both the media and the corporate sector begin to realize that there really is no conflict of interest here. We are ALL environmentalists on this planet, and therefore we ALL stand to benefit.True equality! What a concept!