Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Either / and

A lot in the news lately about climate policy and cap-and-trade. Obama is doing what he can, I suppose. But if Hilary loses, it will all be undone with an asshole's signature.

Robert Stavins may overstate the case when he writes:
A national carbon-pricing regime is the only feasible way for the United States to reach its goal of reducing emissions to 83 percent below their 2005 level by 2050.
It may be the most sensible way, but the only feasible way? I guess that claim rests primarily on the assumption that energy interests that would otherwise oppose heavy regulation must be bought off by allocating them valuable carbon permits. Some environmentalists and lefties find such bribes distasteful, but Stavins is being realistic about the politics, and permit handouts do not undermine the effectiveness of the policy:
The initial distribution of allowances in a cap-and-trade system offers a direct means of compensating for the inevitably unequal burdens imposed by a climate policy. It resists degradation by political forces, because its environmental and economic performance is unaffected by the initial distribution of allowances.
Still, even an effective policy, whether in California or nationally, will fail to prevent the worst warming unless we can bring China and India on board, and soon. For that reason, I am with Severin Borenstein:
The primary goal of California climate policy should be to invent and develop the technologies that can replace fossil fuels, allowing the poorer nations of the world – where most of the world’s population lives – to achieve low-carbon economic growth. If we can do that, we can avert the fundamental risk of climate change.  If we don’t do that, reducing California’s carbon footprint won’t matter.
Thankfully, we can do both. Let's take the permit revenue we don't give away to the fossil magnates and commit it all to green energy R&D. There's no real economic rationale for doing that, but it has political appeal, and might just raise enough money to save the planet.

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