Editor’s note: The federal version of Sightline Cap and Trade 101 is now available. Download Cap and Trade 101: A Federal Climate Policy Primer here.
I’ve been poring over the 948 pages of Waxman-Markey, the cap-and-trade bill that now appears likely (fingers crossed) to pass the US House of Representatives this month or next.
Overall, I give Representatives Henry Waxman of California (pictured) and Edward Markey of Massachusetts a solid “B,” but I’m grading on a curve—the curve of political reality. Straight A’s are hard to come by with oil, coal, and other industries spending almost $80 million lobbying on climate policy in just the past three months (pdf). Under withering fire, Waxman-Markey’s cap-and-trade superstructure is still intact. If it passes in its current form, we can all be pleased, but we’ll have to hold our breath, hoping that the offset provisions work as intended. If we can induce the House or Senate to fix a few flaws before passing it, we can be euphoric. Waxman-Markey could be the most important piece of energy or environmental legislation in a generation. It’s also much-needed economic policy: clean energy can be the path out of recession.
How do I love it? I’ll enumerate as soon as I document its flaws. First, though, a warning: to keep this post shorter than 948 pages, I used some wonk-speak. (An English-language exposition will be available soon, in our Cap and Trade 101 federal primer.)
6 things I hate about Waxman-Markey:
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- I hate that Waxman-Markey allows 2 billion tons of offsets each year. That’s too many by an order of magnitude. Offsets are too slippery; you can never be sure if you’ve reduced emissions overall or just moved them around. W-M’s offsets provision could blow a hole in the cap—and the cap is the only guarantee we’ll meet crucial goals. This offsets number is, in my view, the bill’s biggest flaw. (Still, W-M is admirably complete in designing a set of administrative rules to sift real from fake offsets. Whether such regulatory standards will be enough is perhaps the key question about the bill, as Lisa argued yesterday.)
- I hate that Waxman-Markey’s goal for 2020 is a paltry 17 percent reduction below 2005 levels (19 percent, considering my love #3/strategic reserve). President Obama’s clean-energy stimulus and budget investments, the 2007 federal energy bill, new fuel-economy standards announced in May, and new programs in Waxman-Markey for efficientbuildings, vehicles, and appliances—these initiatives alone might take the United States to a 17 percent drop in emissions. Even without cap and trade.
- I hate that W-M only auctions 15 percent of permits at first. Carbon permits will be a public asset ultimately worth hundreds of billions of dollars. Distributing them for free, even distributing them for free with as much integrity and cleverness as W-M does, is at best sleight of hand. Sooner or later, voters will understand that permits are cash in another form. A more forthright policy would auction all permits first, then distribute the money in the light of day. If coal and oil companies really deserve tens of billions of public dollars (see hate #6), let them argue for it in the halls of Congress, with the news cameras rolling.
- I hate that W-M gives 15 percent of permits for free in its early years to energy-intensive companies in traded sectors. Transitional assistance for traded industries is a legitimate public objective, but handing out permits is too blunt a tool. Paying tribute to swing-state industries?
- I hate that Waxman-Markey, having just lavished 15 percent of permits on energy-intensive firms, dedicates a fraction of one percent of permits to programs that benefit workers. It gives 0.5 percent to transitional aid for displaced workers andgreen-collar job training programs. Combined.
- I hate that in its early years, Waxman-Markey gives 2 percent of permits to oil refiners and 5 percent to coal power plants. W-M also hands out permits to pay for carbon capture and storage (CCS) projects at coal plants. CCS is a promising technology worthy of research grants, but it’s too speculative to deserve 5 percent of permits every year, in perpetuity. Paying more tribute to swing-state industries?
14 things I love about Waxman-Markey
Enough bad news. There’s more to love than there is to hate:
- I love the 2050 goal: a reduction of emissions by more than 83 percent below 2005 levels. Beyond carbon in 40 years!
- I love Waxman-Markey’s scope. It is comprehensive, covering essentially all fossil fuels, along with most other greenhouse gases. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that W-M’s cap would cover 86 percent of emissions by 2020. For uncapped emissions, such as those from landfills and animal farms, it offers regulatory standards and other programs.
- I love W-M’s “strategic reserve”—a stockpile of permits that authorities will accumulate to help buffer prices. To establish the reserve, authorities will withhold a share of each year’s permits, typically 1- 3 percent. The reserve will have the effect of tightening the cap in normal years, but if permit prices spike upwards (rising by 60 percent above their three-year average), it will temper the market by releasing permits. Smart policy! This reserve is a clever, cap-protecting alternative to an off-ramp, which would generate cap-busting extra permits if prices spiked.
- I love that W-M operates (mostly) upstream in the energy economy. “Upstream” simplifies everything and makes the cap more comprehensive. It targets roughly 7,400 US companies, including oil and natural gas suppliers plus power companies that burn coal.
- I love that, by 2030, under W-M, federal authorities will auction 70 percent of permits and distribute the remainder to public agencies and institutions. Those entities will sell their permits as well, likely through the federal auction. It’s not 100 percent auctioned from day 1, as it ought to be, but it gets there eventually.
- I love that, from its inception, Waxman-Markey auctions 15 percent of permits for the benefit of low-income families. Working-class households have done the least to cause climate disruption; they stand to lose the most from it; and their pinched budgets are most exposed to the fossil-fuel rollercoaster. The Congressional Budget Office estimates such rebates might be worth $161 for a single adult in 2012 and grow over time.
- I love that, starting in 2026, federal authorities will auction all unallocated permits and distribute the proceeds in equal payments to all legal US residents. By 2030, that’s 55 percent of permits, worth tens of billions of dollars. It’s almost Cap and Dividend, and it will probably make climate policy a pocket-book winner for every families below the median income.
- I love that low-income families will get both their 15 percent climate credits and their per-capita dividends. W-M will compensate them for some of the cruel injustice of climate disruption itself.
- I love many of its technical features: W-M provides for unlimited “banking” but tightly limits “borrowing”; has few barriers to bidding at its permit auctions (low barriers to entry are among the best safeguards against market manipulation); uses quarterly, uniform-price, sealed-bid, single-round auctions (don’t ask); incorporates a battery of protections against market manipulation; allows linkage with European and other cap-and-trade systems, at the discretion of federal authorities; and allows any recipient of free permits to offer them on consignment at the main federal auction. (More on all this here.)
I love that W-M sets an auction reserve price of $10 when the program begins in 2012. I love that the reserve price will rise each year by 5 percent plus inflation, as shown in this chart. By 2050, permits will never sell at auction for less than $63 (in 2009 dollars). This rising price floor will deliver us to the climate-pricing dream-world I sketched here. In effect, W-M incorporates a carbon tax shift in its cap-and-trade system.
- I love that W-M allocates 10 percent of permits (shrinking over time) to states, to fund renewables and efficiency programs, such as retrofits for all and upgrades to schools and other public buildings.
- I love that W-M dedicates 3 percent of permits to climate-change adaptation—both human and natural, both domestic and international—and raises this allocation to 12 percent in 2027.
- I love that W-M supports conversion to clean-energy abroad, devoting 1 percent of permits to this purpose initially and 4 percent after 2027.
- I love—or at least feel grudging admiration—that W-M finds ways to give free permits but still channel the dollar value of those permits to families. For example, I hate that W-M gives 30 percent of permits to electric utilities (not to power generators but electricity retailers), but I love that it requires them to rebate the value of those permits—after selling them on the market—to their customers in equal lump-sum payments. This mechanism is less transparent, universal, and fair than auctioning permits and sharing the revenue in equal parts. For one thing, rebates will vary widely, depending on utilities’ fuel mix. For another, utilities have no idea how many people share each meter, nor can they ensure that landlords pass rebates to their tenants. Still, it’s an ingenious compromise that may prevent most corporate windfalls, because electric utilities are closely regulated. It also ensures that the carbon price signal will still be felt throughout the electricity market.
The “loves” outnumber the “hates” more than two to one. Among the “hates” only one could be fatal to cap and trade: the overprovision of offsets. Others are annoying, odious, even outrageous, but, considering the power of coal-dependent swing states, not too surprising. In fact, what’s a surprise to me about Waxman-Markey is how good it is as a piece of policy. Hence, I give it a respectable “B.”
Waxman-Markey is the vehicle for a US cap-and-trade system, if the country is to have one in time to reach a new international climate agreement in Copenhagen in December. If the United States enacts W-M, I predict Canada will follow suit with a harmonized cap-and-trade law within two years. I suspect British Columbia will sign up even before Ottawa (see this story in yesterday’s Vancouver Sun).
Waxman-Markey will, like any far-reaching and contested legislation, probably emerge from Congress imperfect: Still, as compromised as are some of its provisions (too little auctioning, too loose a cap initially, too much money to unproven CCS, too many offsets), it remains a giant leap toward a clean-energy economy.
As Waxman-Markey moves through Congress, Northwest champions such as Representative Jay Inslee of Washington need all the support we can give them to correct its flaws and defend its strengths.
I think you’ve been too rough on the allocation formula. Here’s how Iview it: 22% of allowances are reserved for specified industries. 78% (in 2012) are dedicated to the public interest. The only part of the 22% that I find really offensive is the merchantcoal plants. But my anger is that they only get to KEEP their freeallowances if they KEEP BURNING COAL. They do not have a full pricedecision basis on whether to run or shut down. Only a pure allocationbased on historical emissions (whether you run or not) provides thestrongest incentive to shut down. If we just gave them the allowances forever, without restriction, their incentive to shut down would be much greater.Well, I guess pure auction does that, but pure auction is impossible politically, so fuggedaboudit. Pure auction would raise electricity rates in Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, North Dakota, Colorado, and New Mexico by 20% or more. That’s 12 Democratic senators, so fuggedaboudit.Pure auction would raise electricity rates in Kentucky by 43% (the lowest-cost coal-dependent state), but Mitch McConnell is gonna vote no on anything we want anyway, so fuggedaboud HIM too.
Jeremy Blanchard (aka ClimateBill)
Thanks for the amazingly in-depth article, Alan! I haven’t had time to dig through the bill in that much detail myself, so knowing the detailed pros and cons is really helpful. You re-affirmed my faith in this bill.– @climatebill
Jim Lazar,That’s a very important point about the merchant coal plants.
What I’m looking for in an energy bill, Alan, has little to do with Cap-n-trade negociations. What I’m looking for in an organization that asks for my monetary support is that its directors and outreach coordinators respectfully consider my viewpoint. As I see it, the most promising vehicle technology is the plug-in hybrid. High-mileage standard drivetrain vehicles are entirely insufficient. Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are so impractical, they’re a ruse. Battery-only vehicles have too many limitations. Bio-fuels achieve mazimum economy in a plug-in hybrid drive train. The plug-in hybrid battery pack has the potential to form the basis of ‘decentralized’ power systems. In order for the grid to become truly ‘smart’ a large-scale installation of such battery packs are necessary to store surplus energy generated overnight and supply additional energy during peak demand in the late afternoon. These battery packs can do far more than expanding our grid of high-voltage transmission lines. They’re the perfect match with rooftop photovoltiac solar panel systems that can keep basic household electric devices operating during an emergency or grid failure. Households gain the means to better monitor electricity consumption, further energy conservation. Their ‘optimal’ battery-only diving range need only reach 10 miles, thus affecting how much we drive, which is currently an insane amount, insane. Shorter trips eventually lead to more of them being possible without having to drive. Walking and bicycling become more viable travel options and the land-use pattern is affected whereby transit is more practical to arrange. So far, nobody at Sightline is willing to respectfully consider this viewpoint. Of course, energy policy entails many things, but to me, cap-n-trade is a sideshow. Don’t bother trying to convince me otherwise. If you’ve got an opinion on plug-in hybrids, I’d like to hear it. If you’re not an ardent advocate for them, you’re behind the learning curve.
Wells,We’d love it if you started supporting Sightline financially, and we appreciate your viewpoint. I regret that you don’t feel we’ve respectfully considered it. Let me state unequivocally: I am enthusiastic about the contribution plug-in hybrid electric vehicles can make to our energy and transportation future. I think they’ve got enormous potential. Giant. Huge. Very, very large! I wrote twice about PHEVs myself, both times favorably, though not without pointing out the weaknesses and challenges of PHEVs (just as the present post presents Pros and Cons of Waxman-Markey): Here: http://www.sightline.org/daily_score/archive/2007/11/14/car-ful-car-less-32And here: http://www.sightline.org/daily_score/archive/2008/10/02/plug-in-hybrids-revisitedYou commented each time, so you must have read these posts. I think every member of our program staff believes the same: plug-in hybrid electric vehicles have a huge contribution to make to our energy future.Where we may part ways with you is that you seem to believe that public policy should pick PHEVs and promote them. We tend to think that puts the cart before the horse. We tend to believe public policy should be somewhat neutral among technologies. Rather, we tend to believe in getting the policy framework right and letting technologies compete in the marketplace. Cap and Trade is, we believe, the main event, not a sideshow, because it establishes the policy framework in which technologies can compete. In my view, only by putting a clear and comprehensive price on carbon can we drive the top-to-bottom transformation of the energy economy that will allow PHEVs—and/or their competitors—to sweep the field.
Cap and Trade is status quo, business as usual, bottom line market economics, we’ll save civilization from disaster for the right price, greenwash-tinted, fanfare-heralded propaganda. I consider myself a political Moderate and as such conclude that your ideological position is very much right wing. Some right wing ideology is defensible, even essential. But as for economics, the right wing is unfit to lead. Saying that PHEV technology is the same as the other vehicle technologies is like saying a modern LEED home is the same as a tent and an outhouse. What you’re saying is “Let the market decide who lives in a tent and who lives a modest middle class.” Seattle is so screwed up, so corrupt, I’m afraid you either have no idea because you’re living in a bubble, or you know but nonchalantly adapt to the Darwinian theory, Survival of the Fittest. I’ll support organizations that transcend political division. Sightline isn’t there yet.
Thank you, Wells, for reminding me that good analysis deserves support. And good analysis it is – honestly seeing both sides. I therefore contributed a modest donation here.
2 things I love about this post:1) I love that, even though “wonk-speak” is used, it’s easy for “non-wonks” like me to understand.2) I love the prediction that Canada will “harmonize” with its own cap-and-trade law within two years. 1 thing I dislike about this post:1) “Hate” is a very strong word. (My mom taught me to never say “hate” because of this.)1 thing I love about the comments:1) I love that Public Policy is best kept neutral in order to clearly and respectfully see all sides. The explanation that Alan gave for this is the best and most thoughtful I’ve ever heard. (And I’ve even taken a Public Policy class!)
While I’m not crazy about his tone, “Wells” has a point that has often concerned me. Capitalism got us into this mess, can we really rely on it to get us out of it? Cap and trade is rooted in a relatively recent environmental philosophy called environmental pricing reform. Basically it attempts to incorporate externalities into the price of products. Though it has been shown to be successful in the SO2 and NOx programs and in fisheries, the scale of a GHG cap and trade program would be largely experimental. The information we have shows us that it is likely to work.The reality is eliminating capitalism is much less likely to occur than enacting environmental pricing strategies. It may take awhile to incorporate it and we never get it totally right, but it stands a chance and it will —at the very least – result in movement in the right direction.For many of us, we’ve spent much of our lives focusing on the many shortcomings of capitalism. But we don’t have to hate it -if we can make it work for us by reflecting the social, economic and environmental costs of our consumption, in other words, our values which have long been absent in traditional capitalism. If the cost is unquantifiable, as global warming is, we can arbitrarily impose a cost to change our behavior. Also, keep in mind that cap and trade wouldn’t truly be an open market. It is a highly regulated market. The quantity of emissions credits is fixed, the way the credits are distributed is fixed and how the value is spent is mostly fixed. The most important aspect is that the price isn’t fixed—that is the primary difference from a tax. The emission reduction goal will be met, regardless of what happens to prices. So Wells, your concern is valid but you were very clear that your mind is closed on this issue. As for me, I’m open to learning, open to change and I see the potential for cap and trade to work.
Cap-and-Trade will fail. It is a ruse. It presumes that the way we use energy can continue as is, unchanged, status quo. Its advocates have not learned the lesson WPPS did when their presumed need for additional power (nuclear) was proven unecessary after innovative measures of energy conservation were devised and undertaken in the 1980’s. The main reason (among many) that I advocate for Plug-in hybrid vehicles is because its potential for energy conservation far surpasses the others. Alan Durning has chosen to rest on his laurels. He states, “unequivocally, I am enthusiastic about the contribution plug-in hybrid electric vehicles can make to our energy and transportation future.” This says unequivocally nothing. Why does he support them? Why does he equate their potential with that of the others? Answer: politics. The money isn’t going for Plug-in hybrids at the moment; nor will it with so-called leaders like Durning. A few years back, the money was going to Hydrogen fuel cell research led by GM. Look where GM is now. The money now is going for giant photovoltiac arrays far from urban centers. The money isn’t going to household rooftop photovoltiac panels because they won’t produce enough energy to be a profitable capitalist venture, but will allow such households to handily survive an emergency grid failure, will help reduce energy consumption the rest of the time, will help balance the grid load, will bring Public Power a short step away, and will help accomplish these admirable goals and dozens more paired with the battery packs of Plug-in Hybrid vehicles. Oh well. Who am I to disagree with the great Alan Durning.
I disagree with idea put forward by Stacey, and others, that “capitalism got us into this mess”. In my experience the primary cause is much older and more innate: Greed and Selfishness. I don’t know anybody at this point who doesn’t understand that climate change is a looming disaster that is caused primarily by the incredibly high fossil fuel consumption levels of people in the wealthy nations…aka us. Just about everyone knows there are much greener and safer alternatives they could choose. But very, very few are making big voluntary cuts in their carbon footprint…even where doing so saves money. One of the biggest cuts anyone can make is to stop flying and that saves huge dollars instantly. But few people I know have done that. The same is true for most vehicle choices. As many people have found out, less carbon = less costs. But it also means a few less “luxury” choices…and that seems to be too much for most people to trade so far. It is only where the price of fossil fuels go up in relative terms that societies have started using less. You can plot this very directly for all kinds of energy in all kinds of societies.I’d love there to be a non-monetary driver of carbon reduction. I’m personally shocked that people aren’t doing more. I’m thankful we have any levers to move people’s carbon spew at this point. We know that raising the relative price of fossil fuels via carbon pricing does lead to less carbon emitted.
Thanks for the analysis, Alan. You truly added a lot of detail to my observation that W-M is “big.” I find a lot of comfort in your assessment that the bill finds clever ways to embed carbon tax, operate upstream, generate refunds, etc. I was unaware of these aspects.The bill also is potentially catalytic in many areas beyond emissions, including human and ecological adaptation. I find it really hard to predict how many such provisions will play out. For instance, this model (http://www.pnl.gov/news/release.asp?id=374) indicates that unless land use is regulated along with emissions, the cap could cause a shift in land uses (e.g., biomass fuel market shifting ag and forest production) that could cause atmospheric impacts large enough to offset the benefits of the emissions cap. As for Wells, his single issue rigidity and personal accusations make me wonder at his motives. I guess we all have mullahs to put up with.
Interesting link, Mitch. Thanks. I’m reviewing it.
Hello Alan,How about one more thing to hate….?This law will be manipulated like crazy (by way of congress, with help from friendly lobbyists) every year to the point where it won’t work at all.It’s starts off with little transparency, and every year will become murkier.Even (truth telling / whistle blowing) organizations like Sightline will have difficulty tracking the changes and then effectively explaining the impacts.And the citizenry of the USA will sigh and understand, “business as usual.” I’ve been a student of economics my entire adult life.If ever there was an issue that shouted out for simplicity and transparency, it is this.An effective, broad based carbon tax is the only practical solution that will have substantial (and not disproportionate) long term impacts.The issue is really quite simple (as you know). So is the path to an effective, long term solution.When we allow our politics to complicate an issue such as this, we buy into a system that can and will manipulate.Moreover, I have extensive experience within large government bureaus…and I can assure you that they cannot be effective in “making these markets” or in overseeing their administration.In fact I would challenge you to identify even two significant examples that contradict this claim.We must let the markets react to a broad and simply understood tax that will disincentivize our use of carbon based energy supplies. I’ve admired your Sightline work for many years because you’ve regularly demonstrated that the “emperor has no clothes” on so many issues.I would recommend you reconsider your position.If Waxman-Markey won’t work at the end of the day, the “gee-whiz” aspects of the law are irrelevant. This law is not a path to meaningful results.It should not be promoted as such….especially by Sightline.
Thanks for the love and hate take on Waxman-Markey Alan – there are many good things about this not nearly good enough bill.I’d like to point out that China and the developing world are watching and that we are already over a tipping point to failure at Copenhagen. Waxman-Markey will probably become the example:”far too little emission reduction because systemic change is off the table; a weak semi-agreement on paper which most will understand as subvertable. It might be the best deal that negotiators can achieve but it will be failure for even those that still cling to 450 as the ceiling, 2050 as the target date, and still believe that mitigation is possible with instruments and regulation still firmly within BAU.”http://www.energybulletin.net/node/49264Australian Green senator Christine Milne was talking about Waxman-Markey as well as Labour’s not nearly good enough new climate change legislation in her recent very significant speech:”Incrementalism is worse than useless in the face of the climate crisis. Just as you cant be a little bit pregnant, you cant stop climate change by doing 5% of what is necessary. Or even 25%. If we trigger tipping points, the heating process will gather its own momentum and there will be nothing we can do to stop it. Doing too little to avoid those tipping points is functionally equivalent to doing nothing.”Australia senator Christine MilneBill Gibsons, B.C.
I recently picked up a German publication on environmental politics while traveling in Germany. It presented some very interesting facts showing that one can do a lot to decrease CO2 production without the non-transparent cap approach as primary. Tax policy and monetary support for wind and private solar installations as well as energy improvement efficiencies has had a great effect on Germany’s Kyoto goals. It has already surpassed its Kyoto goals of a 21% decrease in greenhouse gas emissions from its 1990 position. Germany currently produces 12% of its energy from renewables with a goal of 30% by 2020. Current goals by 2020 include a doubling of energy efficiency, 30% of electricity from renewables, and 14% of heating from renewable sources.Germany also participates in a carbon certificate program and in June of 2008 certificates were going for 27 Euros or around $40.Are we in the US serious or are we just fiddling while the world begins to burn?
I guess you got the memo to sell the Markely/Waxman bill will “improving the economy”http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2009/jun/19/party-memo-urges-democrats-to-fix-pitch-on-climate/?feat=article_top10_read”In a strategy memo, Democratic think tank Third Way and top party strategist Stanley Greenberg warned Democrats that swing voters don’t care about fighting global warming, and said terms like “cap-and-trade” are useless. Instead, the memo suggests that Democrats tap into Americans’ optimism that clean energy can help improve the faltering economy”.
The author of Peak Oil Theory, Hansen, opposes cap-n-trade and advocates for a Carbon Tax. Oh my gosh, another authority figure who doesn’t agree with Alan Durning! If I’m a ‘mullah’, Mitch, you’re a Free Market unmensch. Why don’t you consider and judge my points instead of whatever it is about me that you find objectionable. Or, is it just easier to dismiss the messenger? If so, you’re not alone. You qualify for membership in the Sightline clueless liberal club. Before you vote to re-elect Nickels, give a sincere effort to be somewhat critical of his record.
Bill Angle,I replied two days ago, but my own website lost it!I appreciate your kind words about Sightline’s work and hope you’ll keep your mind open on this issue.As I’ve said, more transparent would be better in Waxman-Markey. But I’m less pessimistic about our ability to regulate markets than you. We regulate stock and commodity trading pretty well, at least on the major exchanges. I’m not aware of any evidence of misadministration or malfeasance in the existing cap and trade systems. They’ve got problems, but they’re largely political problems—not administrative ones.Like you, I’m a big fan of clean, elegant, economy-wide carbon tax shifting. I’ve lauded BC’s carbon tax shift at great length on this blog and elsewhere.But, as I wrote in the main post, we have to grade W-M on the scale of political reality. Any carbon tax that could pass Congress (which is likely the null set in any event) would likely be just as riddled with obscuring and convoluted special provisions as any cap and trade system. (Consider, for example, the federal income tax.) The problem is not that Congress has chosen the wrong policy vehicle. The problem is that Congress is full of representatives who come from districts full of coal- and oil-dependent industries and households—and ag-dependent industries and households. Etc.Waxman-Markey is legislative sausage, like any major piece of law. But I don’t believe it’s going to be any harder to track or monitor than other laws. In fact, in most respects, it will be simpler than many environmental standards.I’m not arguing in favor of obscurist legislation, mind you. But I’m quite convinced that W-M has far more good than bad in it. It’s almost as good as we can hope to get. If it dies this year, no clean, transparent carbon tax will rise in its place. No climate policy will rise in its place. That’s my fear.
ALAN, please list the government programs which have worked as indented. Most if not all government programs end lining pockets and enslaving poorer citizens. Be mindful: As we decline China, Indiana and others will fill the carbon gap. The book will be fulfilled, this planet’s cycle will cleans humans evan as your cap and trade turns back the clock for your children.
Bill Henderson,”Incrementalism is worse than useless in the face of the climate crisis.”Your fellow British Columbian (and fellow Bill) Bill Reis long ago taught me about what he calls the “sustainability gap”–the fundamental conundrum of advocating for a durable future. The gap is the distance between what is scientifically necessary and what is politically possible.When I read your comment, I thought of Bill R and that observation. What’s the conscientious citizen of this era to do? Well, obviously, we try to change what’s politically possible. We can’t change the laws of nature.The question is, how best to change what’s politically possible. Sen. Milne’s philosophy appears to be to foreswear incrementalism in hopes that the failure to take small steps will create an appetite for enormous steps. I find that philosophy somewhat wishful—at least in a democracy. (And I believe in democracy!) The failure to take first steps in a democracy, in my experience, leads to a public belief that government is hopelessly inept, that we are not in fact capable of acting together through our democracy to solve big collective problems.Not to be partisan—Sightline is nonpartisan—but the whole reason that Barack Obama campaigned on the slogan “Yes we can” was to combat the pervasive cynicism about the efficacy of government. The point was to give permission to voters to believe that their higher hopes and aspirations for their society were achievable. Success, in short, breeds success, while failure breeds failure, apathy, resignation, and cynicism.At least, that’s how I see it. Waxman-Markey is FLAWED and it’s NOT ENOUGH. But it’s a GREAT START!
Paul,”please list the government programs which have worked as indented”Your question reminds me of the scene in the Life of Brian where someone asks “What have the Romans ever done for us?”It’s here.In similar spirit, I’ll start with 30 government programs that have worked as intended. (I’ll assume you’re a US resident, and I’ll assume that “worked” doesn’t mean “worked perfectly,” just “worked relatively well, considering the alternatives.”)1. Twelve centuries of common law (hat tip to Roger)2. The US Constitution3. The Bill of Rights4. Court systems, both criminal and civil5. Intellectual property law, both patents and copyrights6. Universal, free, public education (though you didn’t get a very good spelling teacher—sorry about that)7. The Voting Rights and Civil Rights Acts8. Social Security (which has largely eliminated poverty among seniors in the United States)9. Most of the New Deal apparatus for regulating financial and media institutions10. The National Environmental Policy Act11. The Clean Air and Clean Water Acts12. The Endangered Species Act13. Medicaid14. Medicare15. The US Postal Service16. The US Public Health System17. Almost all federal statistical and scientific agencies: Bureau of the Census, Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institutes of Health, Medicine, etc., the National Academy of Sciences;18. The War Powers Act.19. The Pentagon and all the branches of armed services.20. The US Customs Service21. The Federal Reserve Bank system and the mint22. Roads and sidewalks 23. Sewers24. Public water supply25. Storm sewers26. Public universities27. Bankruptcy law28. Public transit29. Traffic regulation30. DARPA and other federal programs that led to the Internet
31. A democratic President who said, “Ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.” (My grandpa gave me similar advice before my first marriage. Fortunately, President Kennedy’s advice works much better for our country than it did for my marriage!)
The things I hate about Waxman-Markey? 1) The bill is over 1200 pages long. Don’t tell me there’s not not enough pork in it to feed a small country.2) An amendment was added barely 18 hours before the vote that was 300 pages long! I’ve learned long ago that anything rushed through for a vote that is so complex does not bode well for the average citizen’s pocketbook.3) The estimation that 2.5 jobs will be lost for every “green” job created4) At the same time there are over 700 scientists worldwide that are trying to persuade the UN to reconsider its stance on humanity-affected climate change, the US legislature is ramming-rodding something through that most likely won’t have any net positive impact on the worldwide emissions. Just like Paul said, China and India are doing more to pump pollutants into the environment than we could ever do to reduce them.I know all the previous comments were added before Friday’s vote. It’s too late for the House to come to their senses, but there’s still time for the Senate to wise up.