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Environment

Climate Train Departs for Unknown Destination

Collide-a-ScapeBy Keith KloorMay 22, 2009 7:29 PM

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Sure, Waxman-Markey has left the station, and that's going to be reason enough for cap and trade fence-sitters to hop on. But as Grist's Kate Sheppard reminds us, the ride is going to get pretty rough, with plenty of agonizing stops along the way. So with that in mind, if anybody wants to hop off, the WaPo's Steven Pearlstein argues it's not too late. It's fine to admire the political mastery that got the bill out of committe, he says, but after you wipe the stardust from your eyes, there's still no denying that Waxman-Markey is

a badly flawed piece of public policy. It is so broad in its reach and complex in its details that it would be difficult to implement even in Sweden, let alone in a diverse and contentious country like the United States.

Pearlstein suggests that, as the reality of the bill's flaws set in, we pivot from what's politically possible to a policy much more practical:

The Waxman-Markey bill may be the best bill that the political system can produce, and surely it is far preferable to doing nothing. But now that we know what a climate-change bill looks like when it is jury-rigged to accommodate all the special interests, maybe Americans will be willing to reconsider one of the cleaner, simpler approaches -- a carbon tax with all the revenue rebated to households, for example, or a cap-and-trade system that generates enough revenue to erase the national debt, or even a tough new regulatory regime requiring businesses to produce more fuel-efficient cars, buildings and appliances.

Of course, Pearlstein is a business journalist, so he doesn't suggest how the clunky Waxman-Markey train can be turned around, much less how it can be exhanged for a sleeker model.

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