The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Kirsten Stade (202) 265-7337

Obama Goes to UN With Empty Climate Bag

New Video Frames Fundamental Weaknesses of Cap & Trade Approach


On the eve of President Obama's address to the United Nations
climate summit, a new video by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
experts challenges the efficacy of the President's plan for controlling
greenhouse gas emissions. The video adds to growing scientific and
economic skepticism about relying upon cap & trade schemes for
addressing climate change, according to Public Employees for
Environmental Responsibility (PEER).

The video, entitled "The Huge Mistake," by Laurie Williams and
Allan Zabel, two EPA enforcement attorneys (speaking as private
citizens), explains why the cap & trade plan endorsed by President
Obama will not accomplish its goals, let alone effectively curb climate
change, for reasons that include -

  • Cap & trade for climate change in Europe produced few
    greenhouse gas reductions. Instead it raised energy prices for
    consumers and made billions in windfall profits for utilities;
  • To
    keep cap & trade cheap, Congress's climate plan would allow the
    first approximately 17 years of proposed greenhouse gas reductions (2
    billion tons per year) to be satisfied with a combination of domestic
    and international carbon offsets. This offset program will create
    perverse economic incentives that make it even harder to control
    greenhouse gas emissions. Significantly, the Acid Rain Program, the
    model on which this plan is supposed to be based, allowed no offsets;
  • It is virtually impossible to certify or verify that
    the offsets will result in real additional reductions. The video notes,
    among other problems, that "since the most flawed offsets are generally
    cheapest, they will be most in demand."

"Carbon offsets may make sub-prime mortgages look like prudent
investments," stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, noting that
previous EPA attempts at open-ended emission trading collapsed due to
the inability to verify the validity of credits given out under the
programs. "It is like trading an apple for the unenforceable promise of
a planting an apple tree someday."

Williams and Zabel argue that the "biggest obstacle to successfully
addressing climate change is that uncontrolled fossil-fuel energy is a
lot cheaper than clean energy." They urge steps to ensure "that clean
energy becomes cost-competitive with uncontrolled fossil fuels within a
known time-frame" while making sure that "the energy people need
remains affordable." The two urge a system of carbon fees that has also
been endorsed by the eminent NASA climate scientist James Hansen.

"As worldwide political pressure mounts on the U.S., which emits
one-quarter of the planet's greenhouses gases, to act, the danger is
that the politically palatable displaces what is environmentally
effective," Ruch added. "Hopefully, this video will be widely seen and

Watch the new video

Why Waxman-Markey won't work

Look at cap & trade's poor track record in U.S.

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.