Cap and Trade? Sounds More Like Bribe and Corrupt to Me.

I support reducing carbon emissions to mitigate global climate change and improve the overall air quality in order to reduce the adverse health effects brought on by pollution (According to the American Lung Association “over 186 million Americans live in counties where air pollution endangers their lives. This includes over 40 million people in counties where the air failed every test.”)  And yet, Obama’s plan to reduce emissions via cap and trade seems doomed from the start because Congress is seemingly doing their best to write the legislation in a way that guarantees that it will be overly complex, bring in little revenue, suppress the very incentives at the heart of its purpose and foster massive corruption. 

Before I climb too high upon my soapbox, let me explain what cap and trade is for those of you who are only tangentially aware. Under a cap and trade system, businesses will need permits to emit carbon into the air. The number of permits each business gets will be capped at a specific level calculated to reduce total emissions. Many businesses will be able to alter their systems faster than others and reduce their emissions enough so that they will have left over permits. These businesses will then be rewarded for their progress because they will be allowed to sell the excess permits to businesses whose legacy systems cannot be updated as quickly. This would ostensibly make sure that cuts in emissions happen at a lower cost and at a more efficient rate than if the cuts were simply across the board.

This system is certainly more complex than a, probably more efficient, tax on carbon production but it could work. For example, according to the EPA, the Acid Rain Program, a cap and trade system developed to reduce sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) has reduced power plant emission by “over 40 percent nationwide and reduced acid deposition in the East by 35 percent.” And a 2003 Office of Management and Budget study found that the “Acid Rain Program delivered annual benefits exceeding costs by more than 40 to 1, accounting for the largest quantified human health benefits of any federal regulatory program in the last 10 years.”

So a cap and trade system can work, which makes it all the more fortunate that this one will not, at least not as the House Energy and Commerce Committee is currently drafting it. According to the Financial Times, in an attempt to bring in conservative Democrats “particularly from the coal and manufacturing-intensive states, such as Rich Boucher of Virginia, John Dingell of Michigan and Gene Green of Houston, the US oil capital” the bill has been significantly weakened. As such, the only thing reduced will be its efficacy.

The main crux of the issue is that the new bill would give away 85 percent of the permits—so much for auctioning off permits and bringing in massive revenue, eh? Also according to the Financial Times,” the House proposes to reward favorites, such as regulated utilities, and punish villains, notably the oil companies.” This will inevitably promote corruption as it perpetuates a struggle between businesses by distorting the natural advantages of others in order to offset the costs for those businesses which do most of the polluting. Whenever allowances are made in an uneven manner it automatically distorts the markets, reduces transparency and will promote corruption because instead of spending money on fixing their systems, these companies will spend their money on lobbyists in hope of continuing the market distortions in their favor. Every company should have to operate under the same regulatory conditions, that way the only benefits one company has over another comes from the inherent better quality of their business model and system, as opposed to one manufactured by the government.  When businesses are treated unequally, this spawns massive lobbying efforts as the losers fight to equalize the playing field and the winners fight to maintain their artificial advantage.

A possible alternative that would avoid all of these complexities, opaqueness and corruption would be a simple carbon tax. The benefits of such a system are pretty stark: It would lend predictability to energy prices, promote transparency, limit the role of special interests, reduce emissions in every sector as opposed to the ones selected by Congress, provide a higher and steadier stream of revenue, and it could be implemented at a much faster rate to meet the urgency of climate change.

And finally, as a consumer, I appreciate Congress’ desire to reduce the changes’ impact on my personal bank account, but if they are truly trying to “nudge” the people and the industry into changing our habits by asking us to pay for the social costs of our consumption than shielding consumers from these new higher costs is counterproductive to the overall goal. If the government can make the case that this program would benefit the nation, my family and my future health than I would be more than willing to pay the short term high costs of reducing carbon emissions. And no, I am not rich, but I am willing to do my part to sacrifice for my nation and my family. Remember, as JFK said, “Ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country.” I for one am asking, are you?

Scott P


Scott Mc
Its wonderful e8 years ago

Re: "I still don't see the logic of cap and trade"
Simple, its all about the money, billions of dollars will flow to investment banks and swiss bank accounts....
The science is junk and easy to see if you dont listen to AlGore and the IPCC, cooling since 1999, more sea ice that the last 20 years, just fear mongering and scare tactics.

chris b.
chris b8 years ago

I still don't see the logic of cap and trade, other than as a cover for protecting the status quo. Any serious attempt to reduce carbon emmissions must include limitations."Ethics of business" which is a euphamism for dishonesty will mean either fiddling the figures or at best working to the limit of any ceiling. If all businesse are going to work to their full output potential how can there be any room for cap and trade? I saw a wonderful example of Government inspired environ-mental nonsense recently when attempting to trade my 12 year old 55mpg Ford Fiesta car in, to be scrapped under the UK Government scrappage scheme, whereby they give you £2000 off the new price of the replacement which must be new but not more economic. Sorry sir you can't have the base Seat model without air conditioning you have to have the next one up with air con! Oh and it only does 50mpg, less with the ac running! Of course I could have swopped it for a Hummer or some other gas guzzling 4x4 and got the same scrappage allowance but that would be OK. If that is the sort of green UK Government logic used to determine any cap and trade it would be foolish to think the US would improve on that kind of lunatic strategy. In the case of the UK scrappage scheme it has obviuosly got more to do with boosting carsales and increasing a failing dicredited UK Government's chances of re election than protecting the environment or saving the planet. The only attempted salvation here is Gordon Brown's skin

Genevieve N.
Genevieve H8 years ago

I quote you : "So a cap and trade system can work, which makes it all the more fortunate that this one will not". Did you mean "unfortunate" ?
Also, it is very annoying the way most writers on your site seem confused between the two words "than" and "then". They have totally different meanings, and you would do well to re-read yourself before publishing. It makes it hard to understand what you are trying to say. Thanks.

Megan R.
Megan R8 years ago

Sounds like someone has their own agenda...

David Chura
David Chura8 years ago

It's time you people listened up!
No matter what you hear or see in the news, every thing that is brought to light is nothing but garbage and some things may be true and valid. definitely there is a problem with the carbon footprint, definitely there is a problem with global warming, definitely there is a problem with climate change. Definitely there is a problem with the tongue wagers! And absolutely nothing these so called parasites invent say or do will stop any of this. Except to have their mouths closed!
The fact is they know their is only one energy source we should have and every known scientist knows not how to solve this problem!
They have all given up trying to figure this energy source out. They are mentally blind. They all lack real love for their fellow man!
Except one who does not give up! You can do one of 3 things: forget we told you about this,
2Nd, Donate on the following site.
3rd, Use the links on the following site to know your helping research in this field the derelicts can not figure out.
And just to clue you in a little bit,,, Some one has found an over looked law in physics they did not and cannot see.
You do something before it's to late! Stop sitting back and being a popcorn brain watching soap operas!

Emma Nicholson
Emma Nicholson8 years ago

Global warming is not a fraud - the unfortunate thing is that people generalise. We should be thinking of climate change - how what we do effects the climate - our emissions of carbon dioxide affect the climate, generally this will mean warming in many places, but includes other negative outcomes too. We only have one planet and if we ruin it it will be our own stupid fault. We should err on the side of caution and stop polluting in as many ways as possible.

Muis K.
Margaret K8 years ago

I agree w. Scott Mc that global warming is a fraud. I hear that we are more likely to go through a globar cooling. The common sense of simple things we can do is best - like recycle like a maniac, and use less gas in driving. I hate the useless idling of buses etc. Cap and trade is a fraudulent law that adds a useless layer of bureauocracy that will only line the pockets of the friends of Obama the community organizer!!! These lawyer types love drawing up "legal and official pronouncements" that we the people have to pay for. They they exempt themselves!! Observe public education which is a failure, and even BO sends his kids to private school and will have none of it for his family - duh!! You know they want to exempt China from any meaningful standards of clean air, and the wind blows their crap right into California. Also, let's look into the CO2 levels. Plants need CO2 and make O2 for us!! Have you forgotten that basic science. And as to "there are less plants and trees" Well, if BO would put half as much thought into just planting more trees and let's get the world reforesting etc. that would all help too!! But stop, stop pushing the teeny tiny cars that are death traps. They are not safe. Yes, we need better & saner mass transit, as light rail, eventually, but BO is pushing so much through so fast, trying to be the savior, or trying to hurry things through before they can undergo the scrutiny of more sane and reasoned implementation!!

Lloyd H8 years ago

How about it is time for the members of Congress, and if you want a sad laugh the original Latin meaning that all of our founding fathers would have known is very politely to have been ...., to act like the 'elected public servants' they are suppose to be and not the bought and paid for garden impliments, hoes, that they act like. Personally I am sick and tired of all our 'elected public servants' from Obama and his protection of all of the the Bushie criminals, keeping 'don't ask don't tell' and the tribuals to all the rest of them flushing their campaign platforms down the toilet so that they can fill their campaign coffers with corporate cash for the next round of campaign bait and switch.

Scott P.
Scott P8 years ago


Bwahahahaha. Fair, enough. But in my defense I am not writing a dissertation, merely an op-ed on cap and trade in which I offered an alternative. If you need more information on either approach or additional approaches I am sure it is out there but I cannot be responsible for providing infinite amounts of information in a blog.

As for the poll, I agree it does lack from validity upon closer examination because if you vote yes on the poll that does not mean that you would not support another option over a carbon tax nor does voting no mean that you support cap and trade, it merely means you do not prefer a carbon tax.

I will take your critique and I promise to stop beating my wife.

GinaMarie Cheeseman
Past Member 8 years ago

A cap and dividend system might work, but only if the legislation is not watered down.