Senate Republicans have long opposed cap-and-trade legislation to grow clean non-polluting energy (along with all the other legislation they opposed that would do it too). Cap-and-trade is a free market option. Each company can pick the best way for them to become more carbon efficient.
One alternative is top-down command and control: the “socialist” approach that has government mandating standards, rather than just setting a cap for emissions and allowing polluters to trade with each other to fund the ways of reducing pollution.
Yet, ironically, the Senate GOP is now rejecting the free market option in favor of the very same top-down socialist approach in a command and control bill proposed by Senator Lugar, who appears to be acting in good faith. He is one of the few Republicans who has ever voted for climate and clean energy policy. It is supported by Senator Graham, who hasn’t.
Lugar’s bill is a weaker version of Bingaman’s “energy only” bill that quietly failed its CBO analysis last year (for want of any funding mechanism other than the US taxpayer). Like Bingaman’s bill, Lugar’s would also receive its funding from the taxpayer. (By contrast, cap-and-trade gets the carbon reduction funds from the dirtiest and least innovative polluters in an industry.)
Rather than setting a cap on pollution, Lugar’s bill would mandate specific standards for cars, trucks, homes and offices (albeit mostly at levels that are already the law) putting more faith in government than the free market.
Whether the GOP would actually vote for the bill is not clear: they have previously filibustered almost identical pieces of legislation such as Bingaman’s Renewable Energy Standard about eight times over the last decade. But they might.
Under Lugar’s more lenient “diverse” power standards for utilities, nuclear and coal with carbon capture could also be used to meet the requirements, which might be perfect to rope in the last few knuckle-dragger states like Wyoming that still don’t have an RES (as long as they are willing to store that waste at home) getting them to reduce carbon emissions lower than business as usual.
Probably investors there would pick wind or geothermal over more expensive nuclear or carbon-captured coal anyway, once given a demand for carbon-efficient fuel.
The GOP has backed itself into a corner by opposing cap and trade, which is actually the more flexible option for the rugged individualist. As David Leonhard points out in a New York Times piece exposing the strange new GOP preference for socialist policy, they are turning their backs on acid rain policy they themselves devised in 1990 under President GHW Bush, to make coal plants look for alternatives to emitting the sulfur dioxide that caused acid rain.
With a price on emissions, the plants easily found their own solutions. Then, as now, with this time carbon free fuel, ready-to-deploy alternatives exist in abundance.
It remains to be seen whether the twice as fossil-fueled GOP will notice this discrepancy between their stated position against socialism, and the facts. Expect a filibuster anyway.
Source: David Leonhard at the New York Times
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