April 08, 2010
Cap and Trade: Dead to Obama
Cap and trade didn't make the cut in President Obama's address to the nation earlier this week regarding the catastrophic Deepwater Horizon offshore oil spill.
As Breakthrough Senior Advisor Teryn Norris noted:
Instead of using last night's prime-time opportunity to push cap and trade in the form of the Kerry-Lieberman American Power Act -- as many climate advocates saw as their last hope for "comprehensive" climate reform -- President Obama pressed the reset button on energy and climate policy, saying he was "happy to look at other ideas and approaches from either party, as long they seriously tackle our addiction to fossil fuels." He made no mention of setting a price on carbon or establishing an emissions cap and trade system.
The omission has the blogosphere abuzz, and while some criticized other glaring omissions, overwhelmingly pundits and analysts recognize that Obama actualized the writing that has been on the wall for the last few months - cap and trade is dead and it is time to focus on a powerfully viable alternative.
Below are some of the many voices who are adding to the consensus:
Bryan Walsh, TIME:
It may be time to bury cap-and-trade...
But though Obama went on to hail the promise of a clean energy economy, one that would produce "millions of good, middle-class jobs," and emphasized the need for government to set in and accelerate that transition, he made no mention of the policy that mainstream environmentalists have spent the last several years fighting for: carbon cap-and-trade.
Andrew Revkin, Dot Earth, New York Times:
Obama has left open the prospect of pivoting to energy and climate as a top priority in coming months, but chose (wisely) not to use a moment of national unease, built on a backdrop of unchecked pollution, as a launching pad.
He also signaled that he is leaving open a variety of paths on energy and climate policy and no longer hewing tightly to the idea of a cap and trade system for restricting heat-trapping emissions -- which he never wavered from during his campaign. This, too, is wise, given the paralysis in both Congress and international climate-treaty talks over conventional approaches to global warming.
Joshua Green, The Atlantic:
What stood out was that for all his praise of the House climate bill and talk about the "consequences of inaction" and so forth, not once did he utter the phrase, "It's time to put a price on carbon."
Darren Samuelsohn, Politico:
In the first Oval Office speech of his presidency, Obama connected the Gulf of Mexico oil spill to his longer-term vision to wean the country off of fossil fuels. Still, when he turned to the policies he'd like lawmakers to consider, the president stopped well short of calling for carbon caps of any kind.
Obama never even uttered the words "carbon," "greenhouse gases," "global warming" or "cap and trade." He used the word "climate" only once -- and then only to acknowledge that the House last year passed a "a strong and comprehensive energy and climate bill."
He didn't call on the Senate to adopt a similar cap-and-trade plan...
Evan Lehmann and Dina Fine Maron, E&E (subs. req'd):
Obama did not mention the American Power Act introduced by Kerry and Lieberman, as he has in past speeches. Nor did he explicitly address climate change, focusing instead of the risks of fossil fuels, like environmental calamities and siphoning billions to oil-exporting countries. The absence of a presidential directive to pursue cap and trade might leave some senators wanting more...
Obama did not limit his options to cap and trade, as he suggested two weeks ago when he vowed to help Kerry and Lieberman find 60 votes for their bill. Instead, the president acknowledged that he's "happy to look at other ideas and approaches from either party - as long as they seriously tackle our addiction to fossil fuels."
Robin Bravender, E&E (subs. req'd):
Backers of a comprehensive energy and climate bill hoped the president would lay out a road map as the Senate prepares for a summer floor debate, but Obama offered few specifics and may have lent credence to a "smorgasbord" measure combining aspects of various bills -- including a renewable electricity standard and increasing energy efficiency but not necessarily including a cap on greenhouse gas emissions.
Kevin Drum, Mother Jones:
Obama wants a bill. Pretty much any bill will do. But he didn't say a single word about what he himself wanted. A carbon tax? Cap-and-trade? Nuclear subsidies? Electric cars? Who knows? And as Kate Sheppard notes, he didn't breathe so much as a word about climate change.
Kate Sheppard, Mother Jones:
But what his speech lacked was specific directives, which is what the Senate needs at this point. There wasn't even a clear call for a carbon cap, which I fear all but dooms its chances this year.
And there's more to improved energy policy than carbon pricing. But climate change is really important. And putting a price on carbon is really key to getting a handle on it. If you're talking about these issues, you should say that stuff. And Obama didn't.
In an address from the Oval Office, Obama said the country "can't afford not to change how we use and produce energy" because the environmental and security costs of continuing to rely on fossil fuels "are far greater." But Obama backed no specific proposals, and while mentioning legislation that would push for greater energy efficiency and more reliance on wind and solar power, he pointedly did not call for a cap on carbon dioxide emissions.
Ben Adler, Newsweek:
What Obama needed to say, if he was willing to stake his presidency on combating catastrophic climate change, as he had previously staked his presidency--and won--on the proposition that Americans are all entitled to affordable health insurance, was that he would not tolerate anything short of a bill that caps or taxes carbon emissions. He did not, and we will all suffer the consequences.
Jonathan Chait, The New Republic:
Basically, he's saying he just wants some kind of bill. His standards are very low.
Daniel Gross, Slate:
And while he spoke eloquently and specifically of his faith in America's ability to innovate in the long-term--a faith I share--he was vague when it came to the specific, short-term steps the organization he runs can take. As John Dickerson notes here, there was little mention of tough, controversial, but necessary initiatives such as placing a price on carbon, or sharply raising the tax on gasoline, or instituting a cap-and-trade regime.
Bradford Plumer, The New Republic:
Plenty of people were waiting to see whether Obama would say the words "carbon pricing" last night. He didn't. Maybe that's because he doesn't think a carbon cap can garner 60 votes in the Senate. Or maybe, as Dave Roberts suggests, he's subtly focused on ensuring that the energy-only bill the Senate might pass is as strong as possible--more efficiency provisions, more support for renewables, more clean-tech R&D. Who knows?
Alexander Bolton, The Hill:
Climate change legislation appears dead after two setbacks in quick succession -- first from the Oval Office and then from Congress.
Sen. Scott Brown (Mass.), a crucial Republican swing vote, met with President Barack Obama on Wednesday and told him he would not support a cap-and-trade plan or carbon fee to limit greenhouse gas emissions.
But this blow came after Obama delivered the first setback Tuesday night. In his primetimes speech, he called for comprehensive energy reform but did not propose an emissions cap.
E.J. Dionne, Washington Post:
His plea for a new energy policy made sense. We do need to reduce our dependency on oil. I'm glad he pointed out that "[c]ountries like China are investing in clean energy jobs and industries that should be here in America." The problem is that it's hard to see where he'll find the votes for an energy bill in the Senate. By not mentioning cap-and-trade directly, he seemed to be saying that he'll take any forward movement on energy policy he can get out of this Congress
Laura Meckler and Neil King Jr., Wall Street Journal:
Mr. Obama ticked off a list of ideas for "moving our country toward energy independence,'' but he was vague on which he supported. Environmental activists were frustrated that the president did not call on the Senate to pass legislation putting a price on carbon emissions, as the House has.
Robert Reich, Huffington Post:
Tuesday night, President Obama did not call for a tax on carbon. He didn't even ask the Senate to pass the cap and trade legislation that emerged from the House. Instead, he said there were lots of good ideas out there and he's willing to consider any of them -- which seemed more like a way of declaring cap and trade dead.
Breakthrough Senior Fellow Roger Pielke Jr:
It is hard to read those words and see a future for cap-and-trade.