March 15, 2009
Digging Deeper on Cap & Trade

The Seattle Times editorial board seems to speak for much of our local, center-left Establishment in expressing befuddlement at the fate of cap & trade legislation thus far in the 2009 legislative session. They surmise:

If the Legislature, with the acquiescence of Gregoire, has lost faith in the concept of controlling greenhouse-gas emissions, admit it. If everyone is spooked by the economy, say so. If a credible argument can be made that more time is needed to create an administrative template for the market-based cap-and-trade plan and acquaint industry with it, please say so.

The truth may be a little less simple. Consider this:

1) Despite the zeal of environmentalists, cap & trade hasn't worked at all as promised in Europe. Real questions about its effectiveness both in terms of environmental effectiveness and economic impact have arisen. Smart Democrats in Olympia recognize this.

2) Even ignoring point #1, though especially if one doesn't, is now really the best time for legislation that will have a truly painful economic cost? As businesses and utilities make clear the degree to which "tax & trade" will actually be passed on to their customers, the economic impact becomes clear. That, and never doubt how quickly a populace can sour on elected officials when they are perceived as even partially responsible for skyrocketing energy bills (see Davis, Gray).

3) If the right people in Olympia understand points #1 and #2, how then to manage the expectations of the highly vocal environmentalist community? Pass highly watered down legislation, don't say much about it, and leave the likes of the Seattle Times asking questions. It's the least problematic way to mitigate the backlash from that powerful constituency on the left.

All the above are this blogger's educated guesses at the thinking of others, but there is more than a little plausibility to them.

References: the House legislation that died in that Chamber, even after being watered down to studies rather than action. The Senate bill, which remains alive but that relies on voluntary compliance (meaning there is no way it will mean anything, because all the evil carbon emitters environmentalists want to target will choose not to take part).

UPDATE: comments closed due to spam.

Posted by Eric Earling at March 15, 2009 06:04 PM | Email This
1. I went to the Town hall for the 41st district yesterday. This came up. Judy Clibborn responded that she had read the bill, and analyzed it with the experts, and still didn't understand how it works. She refused to vote for something that complicated.

She also admitted that unless the world goes to cap and trade, all we are doing is destroying our local businesses.

It was highly refreshing to hear such common sense and honesty. I'm not a Democrat, but Clibborn and Fred Jarrett reassured me. They know there are big cuts to come, and didn't give false promises to those asking for adult and developmental health care to be spared.

I just hope there isn't a secret tax proposal coming out of all this. No one asked about it.

Posted by: Janet s on March 15, 2009 06:49 PM
2. Sounds like the SeaTimes Editorial Board is fully on-board with the church of Rev. Gore and its intolerant ''debate is over'' dogma.

Meanwhile: The 2nd International Conference on Climate Change (ICCC) that just wrapped up in NYC had a large number of excellent presentations. A huge amount of information has already been posted (over 300 MBytes), with more yet to come. For audio, video, PowerPoints, and PDFs from this conference see:
2009 ICCC proceedings

Posted by: Methow Ken on March 15, 2009 08:17 PM
3. Unfortunately, the Seattle Times editorial board appears to be laboring under a misconception about the effect of "cap and trade." Notice this part of the editorial piece:
For environmental proponents, limits on greenhouse-gas emissions are a step toward ending expensive fossil-fuel dependency. They argue caps create incentives to change practices, and they lead to creation of replacement jobs and reduced pollution.

The "incentives" that caps "create" are called higher costs -- which are passed on to consumers.

Shouldn't they be called disincentives, since their effect is negative?

Until there are less expensive alternatives that can end our "expensive fossil-fuel dependency," we would trade one expensive source of energy for more expensive sources. (If less expensive and useful alternatives already exist, we don't need legislatively imposed disincentives to move us to use them.)

The "replacement jobs" might possibly equal the jobs eliminated by the disincentives. I've yet to see anything that would indicate the "green jobs" are anything more than spending money in a different way -- and probably more money than we now spend for energy.

Perhaps the Seattle Times editorial board understands these things, but cannot say them directly. Instead, the opinion piece mentions the state of the economy, which would only be relevant if the disincentives of "cap and trade" would harm the economy.

I suppose we have to be satisfied with the indirect implication that "cap and trade" is a bad idea because of the disincentives it uses. The Times may not be able to muster the courage to say it directly.

Posted by: Micajah on March 15, 2009 09:04 PM
4. Cap and Trade is a SCAM! It is a game-play to create an illusion of need to save the environment but in reality, is a giant Hustle for Government to have an excuse to further Tax, Regulate, Control and Enslave the Citizenry. It is a tool being used by Government for another Money Power grab. Nuff Said.

Posted by: Daniel on March 15, 2009 09:27 PM
5. I'm still wondering where they take all the money to buy replacement O-zone. The O-zone Depot?

Posted by: PC on March 15, 2009 09:32 PM
6. Thanks for continuing to expose the realities of cap-and-tax.

Posted by: Richard Davis on March 15, 2009 09:54 PM
7. It's certainly easy to criticize cap & trade, especially done on a state level. But, assuming, Eric, that you are not part of the wacko climate denier crowd, what is your solution for systematic approach to reducing GHG emissions to a sustainable level?

Carbon tax? Certainly simpler than cap & trade, but not necessarily as effective at actually reducing emissions.

International treaties that lead to worldwide cap & trade system with international markets? Certainly the ideal, but implementing the system and developing markets now will serve us well in preparation for an international system.

Wait for technology to save us? New technologies will need to play a huge role in solving the problem no matter what, but the clock is ticking. More quickly as new evidence of impacts emerges.

Do nothing? Not a good answer for anyone with children or grandchildren.

Please tell.

Posted by: Bill L on March 15, 2009 10:43 PM
8. If co2 is 385 PPM (parts per million) and 97 per cent are natural, how can you cut co2 to 88.4 ppm by 2020?

Posted by: HW on March 15, 2009 10:44 PM
9. Bill L @7.....Don't tell us that you believe the Government granted and paid Junk Scientists who are backing the Global Warming Scam. What an Easy Believing Loser. Man is more powerful than Nature itself? What a Joke! There are thousands of Scientists who are not dependent on Government grants and payroll that say it is a SCAM! In fact, the World has been cooling since 1997-98. So, quit being a Liberal IDIOT!

Posted by: Daniel on March 15, 2009 11:33 PM
10. Why is comment No. 9 on here?

Posted by: Fuzzy on March 16, 2009 12:00 AM
11. Porn spam comment formerly at #9 deleted.

Posted by: Eric Earling on March 16, 2009 07:06 AM
12. Here we go again. The Earth stopped its last warming cycle 10 years ago. Can't the press and the politicians get on with whatever their next scam is? As long as our leaders keep telling us that up is down, and black is white, there will be those among us who will just believe it regardless of facts to the contrary.

Posted by: Gary on March 16, 2009 07:08 AM
13. Number 10? Because #7 posted and #9 responded. Or perhaps because #7 is an executive director with an Environmental Lobbying group that is used by the State to fill boards and commissions to rubber stamp much of it's enviromental agenda.

Posted by: Huh? on March 16, 2009 07:10 AM
14. So, the Times begs Olympia for tax cuts for itself, while wanting tax increases on every other industry in the state.

And they wonder why nobody trusts them. Producing newspapers cannot possible help the Earth (the way they see it) so why don't they start by going out of business first... you know, walk the walk.

Posted by: Gary on March 16, 2009 08:30 AM
15. I'm just loving this Global Warming we are experiencing this winter.

I am surprised, though, that so many snowmachiners are liberals and Democrats since the nicely groomed trails are bereft of wild and crazy out-of-control riders.

Liberals and Democrats on the west side must believe this stuff. But, hey, it is great for my riding. There is less concern for unfortunate accidents right now.

I am always shocked (and I shouldn't be) at the arrogance of GW lemmings believing that puny man can reverse the forces of nature in such a big endeavor.

Posted by: swatter on March 16, 2009 09:28 AM
16. Yeah, swatter, so am I. If we caused global warming by driving our cars, will the same liberals demand that we start driving *more* now that we are in for decades of global cooling? Nope. Their solution is the same for any imagined crisis... raise taxes and work to limit personal freedom.

By the way, global hurricane activity is at a 30 year (and perhaps longer) low. How do they explain that when they insisted that hurricane activity was going to increase?

God is funny.

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Posted by: jeaseIncincwhz on March 16, 2009 01:33 PM
18. So far, the dam is holding back the deluge that will be created by the idiots in Olympia who are out to create bigger government - the taxpayers get a reprieve.

Looks like another psycho-pervert got through on post #17.

Posted by: KS on March 16, 2009 07:36 PM