There’s a lot not to like about the Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade bill that passed the House this last week. You’d expect the right not to like it, but this bill has many people of all political opinions unhappy.
From the left: The bill is a huge 1300ish page monstrosity developed behind closed doors. What we do know about what’s in the bill is not promising. Greenpeace opposes it and lists several reasons. The “cap” is weak, flexible, and full of loopholes. The “trade” part is shot full of offsets and concessions to the dirtiest power generation coal plants. Even if everything goes as planned, it will mean increases in fossil fuel generation and the result goal is hilariously far short of the IPCC recommendation. The bill just doesn’t do much of anything for the environment.
From the right: It’s going to be expensive. Really expensive. The CBO gives low numbers for the operating cost of the bill amounting to a few hundred bucks annually per family, but this doesn’t take into account changes in the GDP resulting from the bill’s provisions. Those could reach into the thousands annually per family, and in a regressive way since energy is not exactly a luxury good (it’s usually my second biggest expense, behind rent).
From good-government advocates of any stripe: Literally no one has read the entire bill. The house voted on the bill before a complete copy had even been printed, and 300 pages worth of amendments were passed without having been read. Conservative schemes to foil Captain Planet and poison the air inside day-care centers? Liberal plots to ban air-conditioning and make us all wear birkenstocks? Who knows? Not anyone who voted on it, that’s for sure.
From Built On Facts’ personal list of hobby horses: What could actually have great effects for the environment, the economy, and international geopolitics is if the US actually did develop energy technologies that were honestly cheaper than coal, displacing dirty technologies the old fashioned way – by being better. Nuclear power, offshore wind power, geothermal, space solar, etc. Some of this is almost legitimately competitive with cheap coal now, but is smothered in regulations having nothing to do with safety or the environment and everything to do with politics and NIMBYism. So far as I can tell this bill doesn’t do a whole lot to help get those kinds of technologies closer to a true competitive advantage, and that’s a real shame.
The bill is likely to die in the Senate anyway. Too many Democratic senators are from coal industry states. It’s probably for the best. Congress ought to take a deep breath, clear their heads, and start over. Maybe then they’ll come up with something that, I dunno, actually does something useful.
I’m not going to hold my breath.