If you are like me you have noticed a lot more people talking about climate change in the last month. President Obama’s cap and trade proposal has certainly garnered more attention on the subject. Many opponents tend to ask why we should be pursuing such a massive program in the middle of an economic crisis. Unfortunately, I have also had more conversations with individuals asserting global warming is a hoax or overblown.
Recent polling data supports that lack of firm public support that will be necessary to pass cap and trade legislation. A recent Gallup poll shows more Americans are beginning to question global warming now that a serious legislative proposal has been offered.
Eroding public support for cap and trade is having its effect on the debate in Congress. A recent Detroit News article cites eroding support even among Democrats:
Citing the burden the standards would put on manufacturing, particularly automobile-related manufacturing, Michigan Democratic senators Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow are signaling their opposition.
Levin, six other Democrats and 26 Republicans are objecting to a Senate procedural budget reconciliation process that would limit debate and amendments to Obama’s proposed debate cap-and-trade legislation, according to the Detroit News.
As many have observed, the political debate in Congress may shape up to be less about political party and more about geography. Senators, whether Democrat or Republican, from coal states or manufacturing states will find it very difficult to support cap and trade legislation.
What is even more threatening to a cap and trade proposal is that the Republicans have yet to fully seize on their attack message- with the economy in shambles now is not the time to be enacting climate change legislation. Right now, Republicans are soft peddling opposition to cap and trade, as articulated in Reuters recently by Sen. Murkowski:
Congress will not be able to pass legislation capping carbon emissions in 2009 if the economy continues its downward slide, a key Republican senator said on Monday.
"If the economy is still where we are right now, I would suggest to you it’s not happening this year," Senator Lisa Murkowski told reporters at a Platts Energy Podium.
Once the polling numbers show they can win the debate, you know they will ratchet up the heat…so to speak.
What does the challenge of passing carbon legislation mean? As discussed in prior posts, it means that regulation of greenhouse gases (GHGs) through the Clean Air Act will happen first and in a dramatic fashion. Many of those opposing carbon cap and trade legislation seem to ignore this reality.
EPA has already drafted final emission reporting rules for GHGs. Next month, EPA is likely to issue their draft endangerment finding. In addition, EPA will take additional action to regulate GHGs under the Clean Air Act. Massive litigation will follow all of these rulemaking efforts. More suits will be filed by environmental groups looking to use existing authority under the Clean Air Act to block new plants or reduce emissions.
Unfortunately, the command and control approach that will result from regulation under the Clean Air Act will be far more costly and will create great uncertainties. Cap and trade has consistently been shown to be more effective and a cheaper way of reducing emissions.
The clash between cap & trade and regulation under the Clean Air Act, was recently highlighted by a project titled "Breaking the logjam." This project involved N.Y. University School of Law and New York Law School and enlisted 40 environmental law experts across the ideological spectrum. The conclusion of the report was cap and trade is a far more effective means of addressing climate change:
Experience has shown the cap and trade approach to criteria pollutants can achieve cuts at lower cost than are achievable under the highly prescriptive and cumbersome regulatory method at the heart of the current statute [Clean Air Act]
In my mind, the debate cannot be framed in terms of either regulation or no regulation. There is no such option. There is certainly enough Congressional support for addressing climate change that any legislative proposal to amend the Clean Air Act to prevent regulation of GHGs will be unsuccessful.
Rather, the debate must be viewed as which method of regulation is the better option. When viewed in this manner, we should be debating the elements of the cap and trade legislation- offsets and auction v. allocation-not whether to pass such legislation.