( - promoted by Chris Bowers)
Scott Paul at the Washington Note reports something that I heard about a month ago from a Bush administration insider. The Bush adminstration is going to stop denying global warming and is preparing to regulate the economy.
For starters, the White House official said - to the surprise of perhaps everyone in the room - that the administration is not opposed to a domestic cap & trade regime. I'm still having trouble swallowing this, but the official maintains that the administration has always been open to considering a proposal that doesn't involve international carbon markets. I'll believe it when I see it.
That's a really really big deal. Now, let's be real, the Bush administration is not interested in dealing with global warming. They don't change their minds on an issue like this without a really good political reason. And that reason is pretty simple - being able to regulate the economy with the ostensible purpose of reducing carbon creates the ability to hand out tens of billions of dollars to carbon emitting industries. Yes, it's Healthy Forests and no Child Left Behind all over again, only this time we're dealing with global warming.
This time it's going to be called 'Cap and Trade', which I've blogged about before. A Cap and Trade system means the government creates a system to distribute carbon credits, or the right to emit carbon, and gives them to industry to trade or use. By gradually lowering the carbon cap, carbon emissions are ostensibly reduced. That's the theory, anyway. Economist Rob Shapiro tears the system apart in this very readable paper which points out that an economy-wide cap and trade is rife with cheating and gives money precisely to the industries who are doing the emitting. That's why Bush is shifting on carbon regulation.
Anyway, the bill he's going to get behind is the Lieberman-Warner bill, opposed by the Sierra Club but supported by the intensely corporate-friendly and compromised Environmental Defense. There's a green civil war coming, with ED President Fred Krupp playing the role of the DLC. The other environmental groups are split, with the Pew Center and the Nature Conservancy following Krupp over the cliff. The Union of Concerned Scientists and NRDC are 'concerned', and the LCV and the Sierra Club are clear that this is a bad move. If you want to see a dysfunctional, degraded, and compromised movement that have lost touch with their mission statements, look no further than ED, Pew, and the Nature Conservancy.
The one other very significant statement Paul quotes is that the Bush administration is strongly opposed to international carbon markets. That's a hint that this legislation is not meant to address carbon. Carbon is not like other pollutants. If you emit it anywhere on the planet is has the same effect. By refusing to make this a global market, all the Bush administration is trying to do is raise the costs of emitting carbon in America while keeping the costs lower in other countries. That has the effect of accelerating out-sourcing of jobs, reducing the leverage of labor, and increasing the leverage of international business elites. One thing is does not do is reduce carbon emissions, since a factory here can be moved to China quite easily at this point if there's a carbon price differential.
All in all, it's a terrible legislative package coming to the floor in the fall. We need to be prepared to beat this back viciously. We get one bite at this apple.