Why the Obama Climate Change Plan Won't Work

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Luke Eshleman (202) 265-7337

Why the Obama Climate Change Plan Won't Work

Political Support for Cap & Trade Will Not Overcome Its Practical Shortcomings

WASHINGTON - President Obama's proposed cap-and-trade plan
for reducing greenhouse gases will not achieve the reductions quickly enough
to prevent devastating climate change, according to an analysis posted today
by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). The broad political
support for cap-and-trade scheme is rooted in its biggest flaw - that
an incremental approach designed to keep prices for carbon-based energy low
will be insufficient to accomplish a quick shift in energy sources.

The President's plan is summarized on the White House web site as "Implement
an economy-wide cap-and-trade program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 80
percent by 2050". Laurie Williams and Allan Zabel, two EPA enforcement
attorneys (writing as private citizens) with experience in cap-and-trade and
other forms of emission trading have written an analysis entitled Keeping Our
Eyes on the Wrong Ball which rebuts the central promises behind this approach,
including that -

  • The Acid Rain Analogy Is Misplaced. Unlike greenhouse gas control,
    EPA's Acid Rain program did not require replacing the vast majority
    of existing energy infrastructure in a relatively short time nor did it depend
    on spurring major innovation. The Acid Rain program simply induced utilities
    to switch from high sulfur coal to a readily available substitute - low
    sulfur coal. A more apt analogy to the current situation is the fees adopted
    under the Montreal Protocol that led to the phase out of ozone-destroying
    chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) in the 1990s;
  • Reliance on Carbon Sequestration
    and Undeveloped Clean Coal Technologies Is Illusory. None of the technologies
    needed to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions from coal-power yet exist
    but, according to leading scientists such as Jim Hansen of NASA, there
    is an immediate need to make sharp reductions to avoid irreversible climate
    change; and
  • Cap-and-Trade Schemes Are Inherently Vulnerable to Scams. Emission
    trading systems, especially on an economy-wide basis are difficult to
    police and subject to questionable offsets.

A central point of the Wrong Ball analysis is that emissions trading is designed
to keep the price of fossil-fuel energy relatively low and thus will not create
sufficient incentive to invest in carbon-free energy and disinvest in coal.
The only mechanism, the authors argue, that will rapidly flip the economic
incentives driving our energy economy is a system-wide carbon fee.

"We should pay attention to what the specialists who would have to administer
a cap-and-trade have to say," stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch,
calling the Williams-Zabel analysis an important contribution to the national
debate of cap-and-trade versus carbon tax that is now being waged. "A
political consensus around cap-and-trade does little good if it does not work
as promised - and we do not have the luxury of getting it wrong the first
time."

 

Read "Keeping Our Eyes on the Wrong Ball" analysis

Look
at tracking and enforcement weaknesses of cap & trade

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Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) is a national alliance of local state and federal resource professionals. PEER's environmental work is solely directed by the needs of its members. As a consequence, we have the distinct honor of serving resource professionals who daily cast profiles in courage in cubicles across the country.

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