On the Op-Ed page of yesterday's New York Times, environmental policy advocate and author James Hansen had some harsh words to share about certain aspects of President Obama's global warming initiative. In particular the policy called "cap and trade." And according to Hansen its real purpose has precious little to do with any further reduction in air pollution, and a whole lot more with making a lot of money.
Cap and Fade - At the international climate talks in Copenhagen, President Obama is expected to announce that the United States wants to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to about 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020 and 83 percent by 2050. But at the heart of his plan is cap and trade, a market-based approach that has been widely praised but does little to slow global warming or reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. It merely allows polluters and Wall Street traders to fleece the public out of billions of dollars.
Now how can that be? The move towards reducing greenhouse gases can actually be manipulated to become a money making proposition? One that involves trading pollution for dollars? Hansen explains the process:
Supporters of cap and trade point to the 1990 Clean Air Act amendments that capped sulfer dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions from coal-burning power plants - the main pollutants in acid rain - at levels below what they were in 1980. This legislation allowed power plants that reduced emissions to levels below the cap to sell the credit for these excess reductions to other utilities whose emissions were too high, thus giving plant owners a financial incentive to cut back their pollution. Sulfur emissions have been reduced by 43 percent in the two decades since. Great success? Hardly.
Because cap and trade is enforced through the selling and trading of permits, it actually perpetuates the pollution it is supposed to eliminate. If every polluter's emissions fell below the incrementally lowered cap, then the price of pollution credits would collapse and the economic rationale to keep reducing pollution would disappear.
Governments and large corporate polluters are making money out of fouling up our air, and what is the necessary commodity? Air pollution. Imagine, we now have a system that has turned greenhouse gases into a profit center. And how are we going to get people to stop polluting when they are making millions from doing that very thing, and with government support? Certainly Sacramento couldn't resist getting in on something like that. This is perfect for them, it doesn't involve doing anything productive, and it gives them beaucoup swagger with those having lots of money to give. And after all, if there is one thing this state is still capable of producing in bountiful quantities, it is air pollution. It's our greatest unnatural resource.
So would you believe that Sacramento is already well into the game? And the way they got into it was to pass and sign into law AB 32, the so-called Global Warming Solutions Act? AB 32 (father of SB 375, aka the "Destroy Small Cities Act"), is apparently not quite as beneficent a piece of legislation as you might have first believed. And while it was sold to the public as being a way of stopping greenhouse gas pollution, it really has an awful lot more to do with the incredible sums of money to be made.
Remember a couple of days ago when we posted an article speculating that AB 32/SB 375 might not survive 2010 because of some developing, and apparently serious, political problems? Well, it would now appear that the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association have uncovered something that could cause our two favorite laws to suffer stiff legal challenges as well. AB 32, without which there would be no SB 375, could very well contain an illegally imposed tax.
Here's how the Jarvis people break it down:
HJTA Questions Legality of New $143 Billion AB 32 Tax - Last week the Howard Jarvis Association sent the AB 32 Economic and Allocation Advisory Committee (EAAC) a letter spelling out the reasons why we believe that the state has no legal authority to impose a new AB 32 auction tax on California companies and consumers. The California Air Resources Board (CARB) and the Governor have asked the EAAC to provide advice to CARB on how to spend up to $143 billion in new government revenue. We thought it would be wise for the EAAC to consider whether CARB actually has the authority to raise this revenue in the first place.
Beyond the fact that imposing a new $143 billion or more tax on California's already struggling companies would destroy thousands of jobs and force more employers to leave the state, CARB has no legal authority to initiate a cap and trade auction, as the Legislature did not grant any such authority under AB 32. Should lawmakers attempt to bestow this taxing power on CARB retroactively, it will require a two-thirds vote of both houses because imposing government costs through a cap and trade auction is clearly a TAX.
The idea being that the only entity in California that can impose a new tax like this would be the California State Legislature, and then it would take a 2/3s vote to do it. The notion that some bureaucracy in Sacramento can do such a thing being clearly unconstitutional. And let's face it, without a "cap and trade" element to sustain it, AB 32 becomes little more than a smog check with important sounding language attached.
Look, I personally get the greenhouse gas thing. But if the state is going to lie to us about forced high density development issues, confiscate city control over local planning and property taxes, demolish CEQA reviews and other important environmental protections, and then try to end run our elected officials to bureaucratically impose what could be an additional onerous tax upon our already challenged industrial base, and all in the name of stopping Global Warming, then I am just going to have to opt out.
The people of this state are starting to wake up to what is really going on here. 2010 is not going to be a good year for those responsible for running a cynical scam that on the surface appears to have ecological importance, but in reality is all about feeding the Sacramento patronage system. In other words, business as usual.