Cap and trade, with handouts and loopholes
The Economist gives a very useful, brief summary of the “first climate-change bill with a chance of passing”. It is “weaker and worse than expected” because it gives away 85% of the permits. “The bill’s supporters say this colossal compromise was necessary to win the support of firms that generate dirty energy or use a lot of it, and to satisfy congressmen from states that mine coal or roll steel.”
A carbon tax would have been more effective, but no-one likes taxes. Of course what also no-one likes is being told that their lifestyle needs to change. There is still a significant part of America that is convinced that humans are having no effect on climate. Or prefer not to believe it, as that would mean having to do something about it. It has not yet been passed of course, and the process it has to go through could make it even weaker and enlarge the already significant loop holes.
All of this matters – a lot. Canada cannot of course say anything since our track record is about as bad as theirs. Although we have a government that sometimes likes to pretend it cares, the programs we have are ineffective, and the oil sands ensure that our emissions of ghg are steadily increasing. We are going to spend some money on research carbon capture and sequestration – which at least acknowledges that such a strategy is not yet technically feasible. There will be a show down in Copenhagen in December – which is one of the reasons there is a push to get the bill through. Though I think that a cap and trade systems that achieves almost nothing is no better than a carbon tax which is also too low to have any impact. I doubt other countries will be impressed by either Mr Obama’s or Mr Campbell’s efforts, though I think we can give the President some credit for trying. It is not as if he has the same parliamentary ability to get legislation past as leaders in Canada at either provincial or federal levels. I will be very surprised indeed if anything really useful comes out of Copenhagen – other than the possibility that a few politicians may have a look around the city and maybe learn something about urbanity in a northern climate.