Posted by | July 21, 2010 12:39 | Filed under: Top Stories

by Stuart Shapiro

The bad economy has dampened interest in climate change legislation.  David Leonhardt writes today that there are three options remaining in this session.  The first is a utility-only cap and trade.

With a comprehensive cap off the table, Senate leaders began thinking instead about a narrower version that would apply only to power plants, not to emissions from vehicles or factories. This utility-only cap has two advantages.

One, it goes after the emissions that energy experts think will be among the cheapest to reduce. Two, it involves another layer of political disguise. The cap would apply to unlovable utilities, not to American families and businesses.

Of course, the cap would ultimately raise utility rates. That’s the point. So long as dirty energy remains so cheap, people are going to use huge amounts of it.

The second is an energy efficiency bill.

…a tempting option is a series of new rules requiring people to use cleaner energy. In a few cases, such rules really are a free lunch, in that they force people to take steps — like home insulation — that save money. But most rules increase costs. They force people away from the energy sources they are now using.

The third is to do nothing.  Time is running out.  Democrats have to understand that the while the climate outside is getting hotter, the climate inside the Senate will only get worse for climate legislation in November.  Option 1 is the best of these three (a comprehensive cap and trade would be best for all the reasons outlined by Leonhardt) but better to pass option 2 than nothing.

I wonder what would happen if we turned off the air conditioning in the Senate . . .

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Copyright 2010 Liberaland
By: Stuart Shapiro

Stuart is a professor and the Director of the Public Policy
program at the Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers
University. He teaches economics and cost-benefit analysis and studies
regulation in the United States at both the federal and state levels.
Prior to coming to Rutgers, Stuart worked for five years at the Office
of Management and Budget in Washington under Presidents Clinton and
George W. Bush.