Tag Archive: cap and trade

Livestreaming the RGGI Debate

Tonight, the Sierra Club’s Jeff Tittel and Americans for Prosperity’s Steve Lonegan are debating the merits of New Jersey’s (soon to be non-) participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. I’ll be there, but I thought I’d post the live stream for those interested who can’t make it.

The debate is scheduled for 7p, but if it hasn’t quite started yet, you probaby have time to check out a description of the event, and extensive links with background information on RGGI, Click Here. Then, sit back, relax, and enjoy the fireworks:

Live broadcast by Ustream

RGGI Debate: Lonegan v. Tittel (but so much more)

Remember RGGI? That’s the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative – the first real effort nationally to implement a “cap and trade” system in an effort to use market forces to reduce greenhouse gases. By most accounts, the program has been a success, raising hundreds of millions of dollars, while reducing carbon emissions, in ten northeastern states controlled by both democrats and republicans.

It really didn’t seem too controversial in the Garden State, until this Spring, when Gov. Christie pulled NJ out of the program, a move most observers called pandering to a right-wing national audience, and which infuriated environmental groups. It got even more controversial when Democratic Sen. Paul Sarlo showed up for a press conference with “Americans for Prosperity” chief, Steve Lonegan, to announce his opposition to RGGI as well. Sarlo was soon followed by Sen. Nick Sacco and Sen. Jeff Van Drew in supporting the Christie move.

This prompted Sen. Barbara Buono (hey, why didn’t they poll her against Christie the other day?) to write a post here on Blue Jersey calling out what she saw as a huge mistake, and other democrats in the Senate and Assembly to propose blocking Christie’s move. Obviously, divisions within the party had begun, even before all the allegations about “fake democrats” and “Christiecrats” caught fire during the pension and budget battles.

Confused yet? I confess, I could use some education on the subject. So, I’m looking forward to next Wednesday’s forum: Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative: Asset or Liability for New Jersey?, featuring none other than AFP’s Steve Lonegan and the Sierra Club’s Jeff Tittel. (Professor Alain L. Sanders, a member of the Political Science Department of St. Peter’s College, will moderate the discussion.)

It’s next Wednesday, July 27, 2011 from 7 to 9pm at the Ethical Culture Society of Bergen County, 687 Larch Ave, Teaneck, NJ, presented by Bergen Grassroots (DFA). See some of you there, and maybe just maybe we’ll learn a few things – about RGGI, and about where our state is headed.

Don’t Need a Weatherman To Tell Which Way the Heat Goes

Collapse of Cap & Trade Is A Good Thing – But for All The Wrong Reasons

Global warming crisis needs Urgency, Movement Politics & Civil Disobedience

Ironically, the death of the cap and trade global warming bill is a good thing, but for all the wrong reasons.

Perhaps the utter capitulation to corporate interests by both political parties will finally convince mainstream environmental groups to abandon both a failed insider political strategy and bad policy.

Politically, the Republican Party is hopelessly under control of the right wing global warming deniers – there can be no hope of courting their support.

But don’t blame just the Republicans.

That so called big green liberal John Kerry and the corporate Democrats are equally to blame. Three weeks ago, Kerry spinelessly signaled defeat: “We believe we have compromised significantly,” Kerry declared, “and we’re prepared to compromise further.” (Kerry was following in the footsteps of a humiliating lack of leadership by Obama at Copenhagen). (read another killer by Tim Dickinson of Rolling Stone)

So, politically, there’s no where to go – the Beltway enviro’s are all dressed up, with no one to lobby!

Worse, as a matter of policy, cap and trade is a terrible idea and suffers “multiple unfixable flaws” (see: EPA EMPLOYEES BLOW THE WHISTLE ON FLAWED CLIMATE BILLS – Agency Specialists Say Greenhouse Gas Offsets Unenforceable and Demand Probe.

A little history is instructive.

As is usual, for good or bad, in environmental policy, NJ was there first.

During the Whitman Administration, NJ was one of the first states to adopt the so called “Open Market Emissions Trading” (OMET) model: NEW POLLUTION TRADING FOR FOUR STATES GUTS CLEAN AIR ACT – Whitman Trading Plans Emerge as First EPA Policies

Before the corporatization of the environmental movement, it used to be understood by environmental advocates that market trading schemes are a sham. Recall this 2001 Trenton press conference (I was there as NJ Sierra Club Policy Director).


By ALEX NUSSBAUM, Staff Writer

Date: 02-15-2001, Thursday

The state’s industries may be taking advantage of a law that allows them to buy or sell the right to pollute, environmentalists said Wednesday.

The five-year-old system that allows companies to trade air pollution credits has loopholes that make it impossible to tell if factories or power plants are really reducing emissions, critics said at a Trenton news conference.

Due to these fatal flaws, the OMET program was repealed . The termination of the program was announced in 2002, and made formal on February 25, 2004 by DEP Commissioner Bradley Campbell. [full disclosure, I worked for Campbell at the time]. (see: NEW JERSEY REJECTS EPA PLAN FOR TRADING POLLUTION CREDITS – Rebuked EPA Weighs Enforcement Against Companies Using Credits

But since then, market trading schemes have been embraced by the national beltway lobby driven environmental groups.

No politics, no policy.

Chris Hedges, in a horrifically painful but necessary piece of truth-telling “Calling All Future-eaters”  lays out what it will take politically:

As climate change advances, we will face a choice between obeying the rules put in place by corporations or rebellion. Those who work human beings to death in overcrowded factories in China and turn the Gulf of Mexico into a dead zone are the enemy. They serve systems of death. They cannot be reformed or trusted.

The climate crisis is a political crisis. We will either defy the corporate elite, which will mean civil disobedience, a rejection of traditional politics for a new radicalism and the systematic breaking of laws, or see ourselves consumed. Time is not on our side. The longer we wait, the more assured our destruction becomes. The future, if we remain passive, will be wrested from us by events. Our moral obligation is not to structures of power, but life.

With global warming impacts increasingly obvious to not only the scientist/modeler, but the man in the street, and nowhere to go politically, will the environmental groups go back to movement politics?

We don’t need a weatherman to tell which way the wind blows, right?

Bill Wolfe, aka Winston

[for the version with supporting links:


Lessons from the “Enlightened Eight”: Republicans Can Vote Pro-Environment & Not Get “Tea Partied”

On June 26, 2009, the U.S. House of Representatives voted 219-212 in favor of HR 2454, the American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES). Only eight Republicans – we'll call them the “Enlightened Eight” – voted “aye.” These Republicans were Mary Bono-Mack (CA-45), Mike Castle (DE-AL), John McHugh (NY-23), Frank LoBiondo (NJ-2), Leonard Lance (NJ-7), Mark Kirk (IL-10), Dave Reichert (WA-8), and Christopher Smith (NJ-4).

Republicans voting for cap and trade in the year of the Tea Party? You'd think that they'd be dumped in the harbor by now. Instead, they're all doing fine. In fact, to date, not a single one of these Republicans has been successfully primaried by the “tea party” (or otherwise). Instead, we have two – Castle and Kirk – running for U.S. Senate, one (McHugh) who was appointed Secretary of the Army by President Obama, and five others – Bono-Mack, LoBiondo, Lance, Reichert, Smith – running for reelection.

Rep. Lance actually was challenged by not one, not two, but three “Tea Party” candidates. One of Lance's opponents, David Larsen, even produced this nifty video, helpfully explaining that “Leonard Lance Loves Cap & Trade Taxes.” So, did this work? Did the Tea Partiers overthrow the tyrannical, crypto-liberal Lance? Uh, no. Instead, in the end, Lance received 56% of the vote, easily moving on to November.

Meanwhile, 100 miles or so south on the Jersey Turnpike, Rep. LoBiondo faced two “Tea Party” candidates – Donna Ward and Linda Biamonte – who also attacked on the cap-and-trade issue. According to Biamonte, cap and trade “is insidious and another tax policy… a funneling of money to Goldman Sachs and Al Gore through derivatives creating a carbon bubble like the housing bubble.” You'd think that Republican primary voters in the year of the Tea Party would agree with this line of attack. Yet LoBiondo won with 75% of the vote.

Last but not least in New Jersey, Christopher Smith easily turned back a Tea Party challenger – Alan Bateman – by a more than 2:1 margin. Bateman had argued that “Obama knows he can count on Smith to support the United Nations' agenda to redistribute American wealth to foreign countries through international Cap & Trade agreements and other programs that threaten our sovereignty.” Apparently, Republican voters in NJ-4 didn't buy that argument.

Across the country in California's 45th District, Mary Bono-Mack won 71% of the vote over Tea Party candidate Clayton Thibodeau on June 8. This, despite Thibodeau attacking Bono-Mack as “the only Republican west of the Mississippi to vote for Cap and Trade.” Thibodeau also called cap and trade “frightening,” claiming that government could force you to renovate your home or meet requirements before you purchase a home. Thibodeau's scare tactics on cap-and-trade clearly didn't play in CA-45.

Finally, in Washington's 8th Congressional District, incumbent Rep. Dave Reichert has drawn a Tea Party challenger named Ernest Huber, who writes that Cap and Trade “is widely viewed as an attempt at Soviet-style dictatorship using the environmental scam of global warming/climate change… written by the communist Apollo Alliance, which was led by the communist Van Jones, Obama's green jobs czar.” We'll see how this argument plays with voters in Washington's 8th Congressional District, but something tells us it's not going to go over any better than in the New Jersey or California primaries.

In sum, it appears that it's quite possible for Republicans to vote for comprehensive, clean energy and climate legislation and live (politically) to tell about it. The proof is in the primaries.

Remember, Cap-and-Trade Was Originally a Free-Market, Conservative Idea

Once upon a time, “cap-and-trade” wasn't an object of conservative Republican opprobrium (e.g., as a “big government cap-and-tax scheme that will destroy our economy and end our way of life as we know it”). Actually, once up on a time, “cap-and-trade” was…wait for it…a conservative Republican idea! That's right, let's head to the “way back machine” and briefly review the Political History of Cap and Trade.

John B. Henry was hiking in Maine's Acadia National Park one August in the 1980s when he first heard his friend C. Boyden Gray talk about cleaning up the environment by letting people buy and sell the right to pollute. Gray, a tall, lanky heir to a tobacco fortune, was then working as a lawyer in the Reagan White House, where environmental ideas were only slightly more popular than godless Communism. “I thought he was smoking dope,” recalls Henry, a Washington, D.C. entrepreneur. But if the system Gray had in mind now looks like a politically acceptable way to slow climate change-an approach being hotly debated in Congress-you could say that it got its start on the global stage on that hike up Acadia's Cadillac Mountain.

People now call that system “cap-and-trade.” But back then the term of art was “emissions trading,” though some people called it “morally bankrupt” or even “a license to kill.” For a strange alliance of free-market Republicans and renegade environmentalists, it represented a novel approach to cleaning up the world-by working with human nature instead of against it.

Despite powerful resistance, these allies got the system adopted as national law in 1990, to control the power-plant pollutants that cause acid rain. With the help of federal bureaucrats willing to violate the cardinal rule of bureaucracy-by surrendering regulatory power to the marketplace-emissions trading would become one of the most spectacular success stories in the history of the green movement

In the end, the conservative Republican-inspired “cap-and-trade” system for acid-rain-causing sulfur dioxide was put into place by Republican President George HW Bush, who “not only accepted the cap, he overruled his advisers' recommendation of an eight million-ton cut in annual acid rain emissions in favor of the ten million-ton cut advocated by environmentalists.” And it worked incredibly well, “cost[ing] utilities just $3 billion annually, not $25 billion… [and] by cutting acid rain in half, it also generates an estimated $122 billion a year in benefits from avoided death and illness, healthier lakes and forests, and improved visibility on the Eastern Seaboard.”

In short, good things happened when we harnessed the tremendous power of the market to solve environmental problems. Today, the biggest and most pressing of those problems – identified, once again, by a massive amount of scientific research and evidence over several decades – is not acid rain, but global warming. And the proposed solution, once again, is the conservative, market-based “cap-and-trade” system. Strangely, however, it's conservative, market-based Republicans who have morphed into the loudest and most vociferous opponents of “cap-and-trade,” while Democrats have become its biggest proponents.

Even stranger, as Climate Progress points out, many Republicans are now opposing – even “demagoguing” – against an idea they once supported! A short list includes: Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), who once said she supported cap-and-trade because she believed “it offers the opportunity to reduce carbon, at the least cost to society;” Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA), who once bragged that voting for “cap-and-trade” in Massachusetts was an “important step … towards improving our environment;” Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), who once asserted that cap-and-trade “will send a signal that will be heard and welcomed all across the American economy;” and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who used to believe that we should “set emission standards and let the best technology win.” Actually, as Steve Benen at Washington Monthly points out, the McCain-Palin official website in 2008 promised that a McCain administration would “establish…a cap-and-trade system that would reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

My, how times have changed in less than 2 years.

The point of all this is simple. Cap-and-trade is not some dastardly scheme to destroy the U.S. economy. Cap-and-trade is not radical, either. In fact, cap-and-trade is a tried, true, tested and proven, market-based approach to reducing greenhouse gas emissions at the lowest possible cost. It worked with acid rain, far faster and cheaper than anyone predicted. Why would it be any different with carbon dioxide than sulfur dioxide? And why would Republicans oppose their own idea, after watching it produce one of the biggest environmental victories in U.S. history, on the gravest environmental threat facing our country and our planet? Even more, why would Republicans oppose an idea that — even if you put aside the issue of global warming — is still imperative – for urgent economic (e.g., sending $400 billion overseas every year to pay for imported oil) and national security (sending that $400 billion to a lot of countries that aren't our friends, are building nuclear weapons programs, etc.) reasons?

It's hard to think of any good reasons, how about some bad ones? Because, in the end, that's about all the cap-and-trade naysayers have left.

LoBiondo surrenders to Tea Party, abandons his energy views

The big Frank LoBiondo news — though sadly not that surprising — is that LoBiondo has surrendered to the most extreme elements of his party (my bold):

Although they’re upset with his “aye” vote on cap and trade, U.S. Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-Bridgeton) says he welcomes primary opposition, and is encouraged by the organizing efforts of the Tea Party movement.

“I think it’s great,” says the 16-year veteran of the U.S. House. “A lot of people are energized, and when people are energized, we’re all better off.”

“If the cap and trade vote came up again, I wouldn’t support it,” adds LoBiondo, who would like to see the country develop a coherent energy policy – without the tax penalties included in the bill he originally supported.

He couldn’t have put it any more plainly unless he was wearing a “white flag” on his lapel. I am disappointed but again not surprised.  

It does show that LoBiondo had a lot of projection going on when he yelled at Lou Magazzu:

I believe this nation is on a disastrous march. And now Democrats  are losing votes because of the policies of extremists in your party.

According to LoBiondo’s previously expressed views, our energy policy was on a disastrous course but now he has flipped his vote because of extremists in the Republican party. Sad to blame someone else for it. After all, cap and trade is a Republican idea:

I’m just old enough to remember when policies like cap-and-trade were quintessentially conservative.  As an econ undergrad in the 1980s, cap-and-trade was the leading light in a suite of then radical, new, market-based regulatory ideas propounded by right-of-center economists.  These new market-based approaches, they argued, would achieve superior amelioration of environmental problems without the heavy-handed inefficiencies of the “command-and-control” limits embraced by liberals in the 1970s.  During my undergrad years, and the the years after, there was a decent debate about the policy and economic merits of the competing approaches to regulation.  I imagine someone with Lexis Nexis could even find historical documents (Galaxy Quest!) of elected Republicans advocating cap-and-trade approaches as a conservative alternative to old-fashioned, unfair “liberalism.”

Fast forward to 2009, and I confess I still find myself amazed that the conservative policy won the argument… Ironically, while their proposals were winning in the marketplace of ideas, the Republican party has abandoned the field of competition and retreated into an extremism that would probably shock even the 1964 edition of Barry Goldwater.  Where you might have seen someone like Jack Kemp endorsing cap-and-trade as a sexy new idea 25 years ago, now the very same policy approach is crazy communism to today’s Republicans.  The policy hasn’t changed, but the Republican party sure has.  What was once a center-right party looking for innovative new ideas (like cap-and-trade), it is now a right-of-everyone-but-the-lunatics rump, mistrustful of any and all public policy and clinging only to the irrational scraps that feed their hysterical, anti-scientific state of denial.  Kind of sad, really.  

As LoBiondo has been in Congress since 1994, he really needs to look in the mirror and ask how he let this happen.

This is a cross-post from FLR.