GIBSON: All right. Let me turn to something else. Reversing — you invoked the name of Al Gore a few moments ago — reversing or slowing global warming is going to take sacrifice. I’m sort of sorry Chris Dodd isn’t here because he’s talked a lot about a carbon tax in this election. Al Gore favors a carbon tax. None of you have favored a carbon tax. Is it a bad idea, or is it just so politically unpalatable that you guys don’t want to propose it?
RICHARDSON: Can I answer?
You know, I was energy secretary. It’s a bad idea. Because, when you have a carbon tax, first of all, it’s not a mandate. What you want is a mandate on polluters, on coal companies, on those that pollute, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by a certain target.
Under my plan: 30 percent by the year 2020; 80 percent by the year 2040. It takes international leadership. The better way to do it is through a cap-and-trade system which is a mandate. Furthermore, a carbon tax, that’s passed on to consumers, that’s passed on to the average person, that’s money you take out of the economy. So it’s a bad idea.
Cap-and-trade is a mandate, but it’s also going to take presidential leadership. It’s going to take all of us here, every American, you know, to think more efficiently about how we transport ourselves, what vehicles we purchase, appliances in our homes.
It’s going to take a transportation policy that doesn’t just build more highways. We have to have commuter rail, light rail, open spaces. We’ve got to have land-use policies where we improve people’s quality of life.
GIBSON: Senator Obama?
OBAMA: Well, I agree with Bill that I think a cap-and-trade system makes more sense. That’s why I proposed it: because you can be very specific in terms of how we’re going to reduce the greenhouse gases by a particular level.
Now, what you have to do is you have to combine it with a 100 percent auction. In other words, every little bit of pollution that is sent up into the atmosphere, that polluter is getting charged for it.
Not only does that ensure that they don’t game the system, but you’re also generating billions of dollars that can be invested in solar and wind and biodiesel.
I do disagree with one thing, though, that Bill said, and that is that on a carbon tax, the cost will be passed on to consumers, and that won’t happen with a cap-and-trade.
Under a cap-and-trade, there will be a cost. Plants are going to have to retrofit their equipment. And that’s going to cost money, and they will pass it onto consumers.
We have an obligation to use some of the money that we generate to shield low-income and fixed-income individuals from higher electricity prices.
But we’re also going to have to ask the American people to change how they use energy. Everybody is going to have to change their light bulbs. Everybody is going to have to insulate their homes. And that will be a sacrifice. But it’s a sacrifice that we can meet. Over the long term, it will generate jobs and businesses, and can drive our economy for many decades.
CLINTON: Charlie, let me make a connection here that I think is really important.
I think the economy is slipping toward a recession — the unemployment figures on Friday hitting 5 percent, the $100 a barrel oil that we also hit this week, the fall of the dollar. There’s a lot of pressures on middle-class families, and the kind of costs that they have to keep up with have all gone up astronomically.
I mean, you know, the energy costs for the typical family in New Hampshire since George Bush has been president have tripled. And that’s far beyond what the costs of the tax cut that they got from George Bush.
So, what we’ve got to do is use energy as an opportunity to actually jump-start economic recovery. We need to quickly move toward energy efficiency. We should require the utilities to begin to work for energy efficiency and conservation, costs that will be shared and decrease the pressure on families.
We need a weatherization and low-income heating emergency program that is out there now helping families in New Hampshire and elsewhere to cover their costs.
And we need to look at how doing what is right about energy is not only good for our security and good for the fight against global warming, but it will be essential in dealing with the economic challenges that we face.
Kudos to Richardson for mentioning land use and transportation policy, undercovered as they are. Then again, he doesn’t really seem to understand the difference between a carbon tax and a C&T system very well.
Huge kudos to Obama for putting 100% auction into a mainstream debate, and for making a great, compact case for where the revenue would go. Boo to him for passively accepting the stupid “sacrifice” frame.
More huge kudos to Clinton for tying energy policy to economic revival — “sacrifice” my ass. People are already sacrificing. We need a road out of that. Very well framed.
Not only is the Grist Donkey Mill endorsing cap-and-trade, but so is the Romm-dom. “I defy DeSmogBlog to tell me which serious U.S. politician has a climate plan substantially tougher or more comprehensive than Obama’s. It is a courageous plan for any Presidential candidate to run on,” rails Joe. And, in an earlier post, he notes “I don’t see any fatal flaws in either Obama’s plan or Mrs. Clinton’s — they are both terrific and comprehensive.”
The rationale given by Roberts and Romm is that a carbon tax is politically infeasible. An interesting measure to use, makes one wonder about the basis for such infeasibility and the corresponding “realistic assessment by the front runners.”
Sounds like feedstock from the donkeys for the gasifier.