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.
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