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Obama wants a price on carbon pollution -- just not through a carbon tax

President Obama just wrapped up his speech at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. All day it had been billed as the debut of the White House's mid-term argument against the Republicans. We've heard snippets of it over the past year. The crazy economy he inherited. The unpopular decisions he had to make to keep the nation from falling into a bottomless financial sinkhole. And the obstructionism of the opposition party for short-term political gain. The GOP has already attacked it as "Malaise at Mellon."

The crux of Obama's case against the Republican Party is this:

...America does not stand still; we move forward. And that's why I’ve said that as we emerge from this recession, we can’t afford to return to the pre-crisis status quo. We can’t go back to an economy that was too dependent on bubbles and debt and financial speculation. We can’t accept economic growth that leaves the middle class owing more and making less. We have to build a new and stronger foundation for growth and prosperity....

But here's what caught my attention. "The time has come, once and for all, for this nation to fully embrace a clean energy future," Obama said to applause. "But the only way the transition to clean energy will ultimately succeed is if the private sector is fully invested in this future -- if capital comes off the sidelines and the ingenuity of our entrepreneurs is unleashed. And the only way to do that is by finally putting a price on carbon pollution."

The president is right. But his method of achieving it isn't the optimal one.

Obama is championing efforts on Capitol Hill to pass climate-change legislation that would institute a mind-numbingly complicated cap-and-trade system. A system where pollution allowances for covered facilities would be sold for untold sums of money. Then that money would be funneled to various projects that would help usher in our new green future. We saw how ugly the process can be a year ago this month.

Finally putting a price on carbon pollution should mean a carbon tax. One that's high enough to change behaviors that result in the national addiction to fossil fuels. One that would spark that American innovation to invent the technology to hasten a greener future that folks in Washington keep talking about. And one that would keep money within the U.S. that would otherwise go to hostile regimes eager to keep us hooked.

Ending an addiction such as this requires an intervention. That's what a carbon tax would be. Pity there's no political will to make it happen.

By Jonathan Capehart  | June 2, 2010; 4:13 PM ET
Categories:  Capehart  | Tags:  Jonathan Capehart  
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I suggest that we begin Obama's quest to end the national sddiction to oil and coal by grounding AirForce 1, parking the dozens of oversized, fuel inefficient SUV's at his disposal, and have this arrogant socialist drive himself to the places he chooses to run his mouth in a Prius.

At least, then, the arrogance and hypocrisy won't be as gagging.

Posted by: RUKidding0 | June 2, 2010 6:08 PM | Report abuse

Obama has said many times, his vision is to raise the price of carbon-based fuels until they are more expensive than solar, wind, etc. Ignore the effects on the economy or the cost of living.

His calls for nuclear is bogus since his first presidential action was to shut down Yucca Mountain.

Posted by: kitchendragon50 | June 2, 2010 6:48 PM | Report abuse

Cape and da O-man are at it again. Their inability to pass radical legislation is all the Republicans fault...while they sit on a 59-41 majority in the senate and 60 seats in the House.

Cape...pray tell how a party in such a minority can be the cause of all your problems? If you can explain this one, the American might start believe you again.....

but you can' and your master are just run-of-the-mill propagandists thinking if you blame someone (the Jews perhaps?...worked for Goebbels and there sure are a lot of lefties anti-Jewish) and say things often enough, people will believe you.

Look, Cape, let me break this to you gently. Americans are not stupid. You've lost your credibility and Obama's speeches are now stale stuff, end of story. Now quit whining.

Posted by: wjc1va | June 2, 2010 7:05 PM | Report abuse

Gee whiz, sorry but we're not interested in a crippling tax on industry and individuals during 'the worst recession since the Great Depression', to pretty much ensure that we don't come out of it.

I'm also not willing to choose between filling up my tank and buying groceries so that Obama can dump money into research better done by private companies for profit, while a portion of the liberal elite get uber rich off of running carbon offset exhanges, while jetting around in SUVs and private planes, telling the world how wonderful they are.

The laughable thing is that this wouldn't fly in the real world, outside of government. To get venture capital you have to have a business plan that monied people believe in. In Washington, all you have to do is twist the arm of Congress and money falls out of our wallets.

I once had something stolen from me at work years ago. I worked in an altruistic place of business, so stating such publically caused a reaction of 'oh no one would ever do that, it must be a mistake'. It must have been an accident.

No accident, as this had happened with these personal items to numerous people. My response was 'if you don't remember going to work, earning the money, and then purchasing that item, if it's in your possession, you've stolen it from someone else'.

The cash in my wallet is mine. I use it to support my family. It doesn't belong to the government or someone else that thinks that they can vote their need to be greater than mine. If you want me to donate to a charity, ask nicely but know that you don't have any ownership of what is inside of my bank account.

Our budget deficit is historic, our debt is epic and you want more?

Just go away. You cannot have 20 more bucks and I'm not driving you to the mall.

Posted by: Geepers1 | June 3, 2010 6:02 AM | Report abuse

"Finally putting a price on carbon pollution should mean a carbon tax. One that's high enough to change behaviors that result in the national addiction to fossil fuels. "

Why don't you just say it honestly? You want to cripple Americans who depend upon their cars to get to and from work by taxing gas at so high a cost that they a) carpool (but what if they can't?) b) trade in their cars for the newer gas efficient ones (but what if they can't afford a car payment?) c) stop taking vacations in which they drive across country making it too expensive for them to do so (taking away the liberty of many of the working and middle class to see the country and destroying the tourist industry). The truth is that a "price on carbon" which is just another way of saying "tax the hell out of the people for using carbon producing products" will cripple the middle class (who won't be getting those subsidies that are in the C & T bill for the poor). Those who can afford the carbon taxation will simply tighten their belts a bit, and the rest of us will slip down closer to the poverty level in our standard of living without losing any of our income (except for those who lose their jobs as a result of higher carbon taxing on their employers).

Why don't you also just be honest and say that you want to "put a price on carbon" so that we'll turn down our a/c's and our heaters despite the loss of comfort that will inflict on the middle class (who, once again, will not be subsidized)? If you make the cost of heating and cooling our homes "skyrocket" as Candidate Obama promised, then you force behavioral change right?

What was the first thing that happened when gas prices soared in 2008? Servers lost their jobs because folks couldn't afford to go out to dinner - they had a choice between putting gas in their cars to get to work or the luxury of going out to eat. Restaurants couldn't pay their meat order bills and meat and other suppliers began to go out of business.....a high percentage of servers were forced to move home to their parents creating a financial burden on those who had already lost their jobs, gone to a four day work week, lost overtime income etc....which in turn caused more to default on their mortgages and credit cards etc.....

A "price on carbon" will destroy this economy by keeping unemployment high, by causing many small businesses to fail and will essentially create two classes in this country...the poor and the rich....say goodbye to most of the middle class...

Posted by: LMW6 | June 3, 2010 9:24 AM | Report abuse

Everyone is talking about creating new ways to lower consumption (incentives for corn ethanol, deep drilling, and cap and trade) and ignoring the repeal of all of the incentives to consume already built into our tax code and other federal laws. Milk marketing orders often have a transportation supplement for producers farther away from the market. There are deductions, depletion allowances, and probably credits for energy consumption. We subsidize agriculture in dry areas by building the infrastructure for irrigation, providing deductions for deep wells and irrigation costs, and the transportation of food to other parts of the country so that local food producers at a disadvantage. We all pay for the deductions taken by businesses.

The president in his Pittsburg speech did not go far enough.

All federal incentives to consume energy, water, minerals, and land should be repealed immediately.

Posted by: WisGourmand | June 3, 2010 10:55 AM | Report abuse

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