Did Obama just kill cap-and-trade? - Macleans.ca

Did Obama just kill cap-and-trade?

Will cap-and-trade legislation go the way of the “public option” for health care?


President Obama says his top legislative priority is to have Congress pass an energy bill by the end of the summer. In last night’s Oval Office address on the BP spill and energy policy,  Obama called for new energy legislation but did not utter the words “greenhouse gases” or “cap-and-trade.” (His comments excerpted below.) Some say that in failing to do so, Obama essentially killed the idea of a carbon cap  (if it wasn’t already politically dead).  On the other hand, some environmentalists see a glimmer of hope in Obama’s mention of the energy legislation passed by the house last year, which includes a carbon cap. As with the health care debate, Obama appears to be giving a wide berth to Congress to give him something, anything, to sign before the November elections. This makes it likely that cap-and-trade legislation could go the way of the “public option” for health care. However, there is an important difference. If Congress doesn’t act to legislate carbon emissions, the EPA will try to regulate them. Some argue that would be a more expensive outcome.

From Obama’s “Remarks to the Nation on the BP Oil Spill” yesterday:

“…So one of the lessons we’ve learned from this spill is that we need better regulations, better safety standards, and better enforcement when it comes to offshore drilling.  But a larger lesson is that no matter how much we improve our regulation of the industry, drilling for oil these days entails greater risk.  After all, oil is a finite resource.  We consume more than 20 percent of the world’s oil, but have less than 2 percent of the world’s oil reserves.  And that’s part of the reason oil companies are drilling a mile beneath the surface of the ocean — because we’re running out of places to drill on land and in shallow water.

For decades, we have known the days of cheap and easily accessible oil were numbered.  For decades, we’ve talked and talked about the need to end America’s century-long addiction to fossil fuels.  And for decades, we have failed to act with the sense of urgency that this challenge requires.  Time and again, the path forward has been blocked — not only by oil industry lobbyists, but also by a lack of political courage and candor.

The consequences of our inaction are now in plain sight.  Countries like China are investing in clean energy jobs and industries that should be right here in America.  Each day, we send nearly $1 billion of our wealth to foreign countries for their oil.  And today, as we look to the Gulf, we see an entire way of life being threatened by a menacing cloud of black crude.

We cannot consign our children to this future.  The tragedy unfolding on our coast is the most painful and powerful reminder yet that the time to embrace a clean energy future is now.  Now is the moment for this generation to embark on a national mission to unleash America’s innovation and seize control of our own destiny.

This is not some distant vision for America.  The transition away from fossil fuels is going to take some time, but over the last year and a half, we’ve already taken unprecedented action to jumpstart the clean energy industry.  As we speak, old factories are reopening to produce wind turbines, people are going back to work installing energy-efficient windows, and small businesses are making solar panels.  Consumers are buying more efficient cars and trucks, and families are making their homes more energy-efficient.  Scientists and researchers are discovering clean energy technologies that someday will lead to entire new industries

Each of us has a part to play in a new future that will benefit all of us.  As we recover from this recession, the transition to clean energy has the potential to grow our economy and create millions of jobs -– but only if we accelerate that transition.  Only if we seize the moment.  And only if we rally together and act as one nation –- workers and entrepreneurs; scientists and citizens; the public and private sectors.

When I was a candidate for this office, I laid out a set of principles that would move our country towards energy independence.  Last year, the House of Representatives acted on these principles by passing a strong and comprehensive energy and climate bill –- a bill that finally makes clean energy the profitable kind of energy for America’s businesses.

Now, there are costs associated with this transition.  And there are some who believe that we can’t afford those costs right now.  I say we can’t afford not to change how we produce and use energy -– because the long-term costs to our economy, our national security, and our environment are far greater.

So I’m happy to look at other ideas and approaches from either party -– as long they seriously tackle our addiction to fossil fuels.  Some have suggested raising efficiency standards in our buildings like we did in our cars and trucks.  Some believe we should set standards to ensure that more of our electricity comes from wind and solar power.  Others wonder why the energy industry only spends a fraction of what the high-tech industry does on research and development -– and want to rapidly boost our investments in such research and development.

All of these approaches have merit, and deserve a fair hearing in the months ahead.  But the one approach I will not accept is inaction.”

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Did Obama just kill cap-and-trade?

  1. But beyond clean-up, Obama seized the moment to push for a fundamental reconsideration of the nation's approach to transportation (petroleum in the US is mainly used to fuel automobiles and other vehicles). ITN has video:

    Obama insisted that there is a role for government both in regulating the petroleum corporations and in being a “catalyst” for jump-starting green energy companies, as China has. Presumably he is speaking of tax breaks, ease of obtaining loans, and other incentives. He compared a government crash program to enable green energy to putting a man on the moon.

    • Looks like a case of "Disaster Socialism". Naomi Klien would be proud.

      • Cough….I believe it's called 'disaster capitalism'.

        • Cough – I believe Keith was speaking with tongue in cheek.

      • Naomi Klein is full of ****. Talk about a bandwagon writer that doesn't understand half of thing she writes about.

  2. Either the Democrats will keep the House and pass it, or they will lose the House and pass it during the two-month session between the midterms and the new Congress. Either way, I'm pretty sure they're going to give it a shot: it's too good an opportunity for encroachment of government into the energy industry not to do so.

  3. I think cap-and-trade is dead because it isn't necessary. Now that the EPA has said it's going to regulate carbon emissions, the federal government can achieve the same result (limiting carbon emissions) without having to go through the politically damaging and polarizing process of passing legislation. Of course, it now means that regulating carbon emissions, which means regulating everything that everyone does, and which means government intrusion into every single detail of everyone's life, will be done by unaccountable, unelected, faceless bureaucrats, but that's a small price to pay to avoid political embarrassment.

  4. I don't understand Obama's obsession with wind and solar power. No mention of nuclear power, which is the only viable alternative to fossil fuel use. That is very unfortunate.

  5. The US needs tax revenue. Taxing carbon is no worse than taxing income. It's actually superior. Regardless of what you think about carbon emissions, consider that a carbon tax is essentially a consumption tax in the short run. And with a carbon tax, you can make an argument for scrapping all the subsidy programs for green initiatives.

  6. You are all missing the most obvious and best solution. Incinerating our garbage is a great first step.

  7. retoric……..I've been hearing about fossil fuels since the 70's and carbon tax and basically as long as they make the billions..they will keep drilling and gouging because shareholders make it happen and expect it to happen: when I lived in cold harsh Saskatchewan Can. and we built energy efficient houses…….wow – what savings!! However, the rest of the world was more concerned with capital investment and corporate shares and other types of profits than a clean enviroment and solar and etc. it was the same with the car industry….a lot of promises, no real action. and prices and thus profits soared especially in the last 20 years…with nothing but a bit of marketing hype – the masses thought and bought the 'crap'
    taxes don't make one bit of difference except line the pockets of the state. they just add it to the common denominator
    so people can't make change because they are always broke and can't afford alternatives.

    politics…….too many hurdles to jump – it's up to each individual………not to be dictated by congress and or etc. we can go another 40 years and not make any progress. Oil disasters only make us more aware but when a global recession is caused by poor management and laws……

    it was a good speech from a president that is trying……….and it reflects on possibilities………but it takes the whole crowd to make it happen in the states……and years of lobbying and etc. he sure as hell did not inherit an easy job after Bush had such an easy time!