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If cap-and-trade dies, is an energy bill worth doing?

Brad Plumer weighs the pros and cons of what's now the likeliest outcome. The answer? It depends.

By Ezra Klein  |  July 19, 2010; 3:25 PM ET
Categories:  Climate Change  
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I've never been a proponent of the SDP's Carbon Tax proposal, but an alternative might be attractive. If, for example, anthropogenic climate change worriers are correct, a tax on property likely to be submerged by rising sea levels seems appropriate: by applying the tax now to property in Washington, New York, and other at-risk areas, we can encourage nay-sayers to move to higher ground inland and simultaneously collect enough revenue to help those who choose not to move and therefore are left homeless.

The basis of the alternative is the same as that of the PPACA: tax everyone who might be affected rather than penalizing only those who can't lead healthy lives and plan for their own futures.

Seriously -- if there are so many climate change experts and believers, we should be seeing a dramatic increase in the cost of inland property both here and in Europe. Or is it that the problem is so trivial and so easily correctable (or so firmly uncorrectable) that nobody is truly worried about it?

Posted by: rmgregory | July 19, 2010 3:53 PM | Report abuse

You can buy a new house and move in a week. The sea level rise is over 100 years.

Posted by: mschol17 | July 19, 2010 4:03 PM | Report abuse

The Senate Democrats really should move the energy bill without the cap and trade provisions as fast as they can.

Right now they should be in a race to beat the elections and get accomplishments done. An energy bill that gives incentives to increased renewable energy production, including nuclear energy, is a necessary step to meeting the energy demands of the future in a more clean way.

Posted by: lancediverson | July 19, 2010 4:13 PM | Report abuse

Accoring to "expert scientists" espousing the theory of manmdade global warming, how much more time before apocalypse would the most aggressive Cap & Trade bill buy us?

1 day?

1 month?

1 year?

1 decade?

Could it be more productive to focus on atmospheric CO2 mitigation since every single animal and every volcanoe will continue to emit CO2 into the atmosphere and no matter how aggressive we might be to tax carbon emissions we still have another 20 years of heavy fossil fuel use in near term?

Or is the whole carbon taxing a phoney rouse to tax capitalism in order to pay for backwards Marxist nations that cannot manage to achieve the same productivity?

Posted by: FastEddieO007 | July 19, 2010 4:15 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: FastEddieO007 | July 19, 2010 4:18 PM | Report abuse

FastEddie007, the appropriate answer to the question as you posed it is "Who knows?" We could completely get our carbon emissions under control and face an "apocalypse" from nuclear war. What passing a stong cap & trade bill would do is likely reduce the amount of emissions from companies in the US. It would hopefully lead to a broader global agreement and reduction in carbon emissions. It would also hopefully lead to good investments in green tech in the US and lead to a green tech boom as we moved ahead of other countries in developing the power sources and technology of the next century's economy. That's all speculative, mind.

What we do know is that it would very likely lead to a reduction in carbon emissions, which climate science has strongly linked to climate change, in this country.

Posted by: MosBen | July 19, 2010 4:55 PM | Report abuse

MosBen - please explain your meaning of those last three words, "in this country"?

" would very likely lead to a reduction in carbon emissions, which climate science has strongly linked to climate change, in this country."

Posted by: FastEddieO007 | July 19, 2010 5:24 PM | Report abuse

Of course liberals should posture about not supporting the bill in order to keep maximum bargaining chips, but in the end, anything that can be passed must be passed. If, as the U.S. military predicts, we are only five years away from oil shortages and $10 a gallon gasoline, we have to get going now.

So imagine it is 2015 and the military is right and peak oil has hit. Gas lines are snaking around the corner. People cannot afford to fill up their tanks. And liberals are wondering, "wait, why were we calling it a climate bill all those years?"

Posted by: nathanlindquist | July 19, 2010 5:33 PM | Report abuse

And just to be clear, I am a liberal myself, so please take this as constructive criticism, not as an attack on our shared ideology.

Posted by: nathanlindquist | July 19, 2010 5:45 PM | Report abuse

Every time Republican score a point like protecting our border, they screw up with another lame directives like opposing Unemployment Benefit Extentions. But then the stupid Dems will do the same with the passage of the Health Bill, Finance Reform and Unemployment Benefit Extensions than they screw up with Illegal Immigrants. Why do they always miss use and squander their political credits with so many bipartisan acts??? They are both so stupid, why can't one of them just chill and watch the other kill themself with Foot in Mouth???

Posted by: toneme | July 19, 2010 7:08 PM | Report abuse

Fast Eddie, I have an opinion about what MosBen meant by 'in this country'. China, India, and the rest of the third world emit more CO2 than we do, and are increasing their emissions rate at an increasing rate as their economies expand.

Passing cap and Tax or Carbon Tax here will retard and maybe cripple our economies, but have essentially no meaningful effect on worldwide emissions. Those will continue to rise until a cheaper technology replaces carbon based fuels, if and when one is found.

So if you are one of the true believers, you shouldn't plan on owning beach property that will be an estate for your kids, grand kids, great grand kids, or whichever date you believe in for the great melting.

Posted by: AGWsceptic99 | July 19, 2010 9:26 PM | Report abuse

sometimes I wish the Democrats would try to force a vote on something, even if they don't have 60 yays, just so the country can see where they stand and who it is that's blocking progress. And then when the planet goes into convulsions between heat waves and floods, we'll all know who to point our fingers at.

Posted by: SnowleopardNZ | July 20, 2010 1:58 AM | Report abuse

enough with the "cap and trade is a socialist plot" BS. CO2 is a greenhouse gas, and changing the climate. Period. Cap and Trade is one possible approach to weening ourselves off of oil, but if the right wing has a better one, they should present it. This demonizing of the other side and second guess their motives is ridiculous.

Posted by: SnowleopardNZ | July 20, 2010 2:27 AM | Report abuse

Q: How much more time before apocalypse would the most aggressive Cap & Trade bill buy us?

A: "Who knows?"

Nuff said!

This is the promotion of a Chicago Mafia Scam to "trade" invisible carbon credits for the personal profit of Al Gore, Bill Ayers, and Goldman-Sachs.

I'd be interested in pursuing carbon-eating microbes for now and let us continue to use fossil fuels until solar, wind, and nuclear replace those naturally increasing costly fuels.

Posted by: FastEddieO007 | July 20, 2010 7:58 AM | Report abuse

So SnowleopardNZ states the obvious: CO2 is a greenhouse gas and warms the climate. Nice simple factual statement.

Weening ourselves from foreign oil is another policy that everyone will agree with.

The demonizing occurs when anyone with common sense and calculator points out that Cap and Tax or similar policies applied to the US population will not stop the increase in world wide CO2, nor will they have much effect on consumption of foreign oil?

Is it that you believe we can keep the US cooler by reducing CO2 over our own land? Or maybe you are one who is off the electrical grid and not using a car to get around? Do you grow your own food and weave your own clothes?

The climate has warmed and cooled for billions of years. It has been warming recently, but may be more likely to start cooling than to continue warming. Are you willing to return to primitive living conditions required by those who promote zero carbon emissions? Or is your A/C turned on this summer like the ones Al Gore and the rest of the warmists have in their mansions?

Posted by: AGWsceptic99 | July 20, 2010 9:01 AM | Report abuse

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