Environment

The Waxman-Markey Misdirection

Collide-a-ScapeBy Keith KloorJun 8, 2009 11:37 PM

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Play along with me for a minute. Let's say this economist from the London School of Economics is right when he asserts:

The American Clean Energy and Security (ACES) Act of 2009 is worse than nothing: it is a con and a fraud. It pretends to be a vehicle for reductions in CO2E emissions. In fact it is designed to permit increases in CO2E emissions.

And that Roger Pielke Jr. is right when he shows here

how offsets under the bill will allow emissions to rise essentially indefinitely.

Or that at the very least, as A Siegel contends, the bill

falls far short of what is necessary and, well, quite likely falls short of what is possible.

Let's assume, for the sake of argument, the worst outcome as envisioned by the above critics, particularly the first two. (Climate change advocates like playing that "worst scenario" game, so why not?) If the WM bill is really a con, then why do so many smart, well-intentioned people, such as President Obama, Al Gore and Paul Krugman support it? Is is possible they know the WM bill is really a "con" but that they have a different end game in mind? The person who best supplies that answer is Joe Romm, among the bill's biggest champions. His rationale, shared by many cap and trade advocates, is that the WM bill

takes us off of the business as usual path, which is the most important thing, and it accelerates the transition to a clean energy economy, which is the second most important thing, and it establishes a framework that can be tightened as reality and science render inevitable.

Viewed this way, the WM bill is likely rationalized as a temporary misdirection, a necessary illusion. Instead of the bill taking the trajectory that Pielke imagines, supporters believe its course can be corrected at a later, more politically opportune date. To WM boosters, this is not a "con," but it is a very risky gamble.

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