Five Republican senators on cap-and-trade


in Economics, Politics, The environment

In an interesting illustration of how political tactics shift with circumstances, an article on Grist quotes five American Republican lawmakers expressing their support for a cap-and-trade approach to addressing climate change. At the time, they were concerned about so-called ‘command and control’ regulations, which may have given industry fewer options for reducing emissions. For instance, a government decree that all new vehicles meet a certain efficiency standard cannot be circumvented by cutting emissions somewhere else; by contrast, both carbon taxes and cap-and-trade schemes leave it up to firms and individuals to choose where to cut emissions.

The Grist list includes senators Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Scott Brown (R-Mass.), and John McCain.

The logic of the changed stances is dispiriting. At one point, Republicans saw command and control regulations as plausible enough to be worried about, and were willing to promote cap-and-trade as a preferable alternative. Now, it seems they think command and control is a complete political non-starter, and they have directed their energies towards fighting the less stringent alternative they once opposed.

There are reasons to worry about whether a carbon tax or cap-and-trade system would produce the emissions reductions we need quickly enough, and it is very plausible that additional measures like fuel taxes and efficiency requirements will be needed in addition. All the more reason, then, to create a carbon price as soon as possible. Only by doing so can we begin to get a sense of how quickly and cheaply that approach can lead to a lower carbon world. If it proves cheaper and easier than expected (as has generally been the case for complying with environmental regulation), then the price of emitting carbon can be raised more quickly, reducing climate risks further. If it does not prove effective, early action will at least provide us with that information in a somewhat timely manner, while there is still an opportunity to try other approaches.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

. June 30, 2010 at 7:10 pm

Gingrich slams Obama on Gulf gusher and sounds off on climate

A couple of years ago, Newt Gingrich was sounding like a climate activist. The former Republican speaker of the House posed with current Democratic Speaker Nancy Pelosi on a couch in front of the Capitol for a 2008 ad sponsored by Al Gore’s organization, the Alliance for Climate Protection. “[O]ur country must take action to address climate change,” Gingrich said, calling on Americans to “demand action from our leaders.”

In his new book To Save America: Stopping Obama’s Secular-Socialist Machine, Gingrich pushes a strikingly different view, decrying “the doomsday theory of climate change,” which he attributes to the “high-tax, big-bureaucracy, job-killing, and government-centralizing environmentalism of the Left.”

A vehement critic of the Obama administration — opposing its approach to the Gulf oil spill, energy and climate legislation, and much else — Gingrich calls for a “green conservatism — a new pathway to environmental stewardship.” He characterizes this philosophy as “optimistic, positive … entrepreneurial, market-based, and incentive-led.” He calls the Tea Party movement “a good way to spread green conservatism.”

Byron Smith July 7, 2010 at 1:30 pm

they have directed their energies towards fighting the less stringent alternative they once opposed.
alternatives they once proposed?

Milan July 7, 2010 at 1:38 pm

Cap-and-trade is just one alternative, isn’t it?

. July 26, 2010 at 2:14 pm

“There are a number of such climate cowards, but let me single out one in particular: Senator John McCain.

There was a time when Mr. McCain was considered a friend of the environment. Back in 2003 he burnished his maverick image by co-sponsoring legislation that would have created a cap-and-trade system for greenhouse gas emissions. He reaffirmed support for such a system during his presidential campaign, and things might look very different now if he had continued to back climate action once his opponent was in the White House. But he didn’t — and it’s hard to see his switch as anything other than the act of a man willing to sacrifice his principles, and humanity’s future, for the sake of a few years added to his political career.

Alas, Mr. McCain wasn’t alone; and there will be no climate bill. Greed, aided by cowardice, has triumphed. And the whole world will pay the price. “

Milan July 26, 2010 at 2:23 pm

The diminishing of John McCain is one of the sadder stories in recent American political history. While he may not always have been right in the past, at least he was clearly a man of principle. Now, he just seems to be another populist.

Byron Smith July 26, 2010 at 4:09 pm

Yes, while I was never a big fan of McCain, at least he was willing to stand up against big corn, and make unpopular decisions about carbon (unpopular amongst some of his base, at least). But it all started to go downhill for him when he picked Palin, I think.

Milan July 26, 2010 at 4:13 pm

McCain definitely created a monster, with that choice.

It seems reasonable to see the decline of McCain as part of the general decline of independent Republicans who are willing to evaluate things on their own. The Republicans know they can be most influential as a monolothic bloc, and they are far more effective than the Democrats at conjuring the discipline required to make that tactic work.

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