You would think a law that makes it profitable for companies to reduce pollution would be a good thing. That is, unless you were a conservative. Groups like the Heritage Foundation are attacking America’s Climate Security Act of 2007.
Perhaps these people think that cleaning up air pollution is a bad idea. More likely, though, they simply do not want to stop running rough-shod over the environment in the pursuit of making massive amounts of profit.
The Climate Security Act will impose limits on greenhouse gas emissions. The government will issue permits for emissions. Companies that can find ways to reduce their output of these gases will be allowed to sell their excess permits to other companies that cannot. The scheme, called “cap and trade” will create a financial incentive for companies to clean up their acts.
Like the good, oppositional-defiant children that they are, conservatives are trumpeting the disaster they claim this legislation will bring about: raised costs, the potential for dishonesty, lowered profits and lost jobs. They claim that this kind of system is inappropriate. They stop short of claiming that climate change is hogwash, but only just barely.
The cap and trade system has been in use since 1990 for pollutants associated with acid rain. It works well, and consumers have been able to keep up with any costs that companies have passed on to them. It is hard to imagine why a system that works for sulfur would not work for carbon, but opponents of the legislation claim just that.
Jobs are often lost in one sector while new jobs are made in another. For example, twenty years ago, fewer people were employed in computers and the Internet, while many more were employed in manufacturing. Jobs migrate from one sector to another. While the cap and trade system may cause some loss of jobs in certain industries, green jobs are projected to grow greatly over the next 10 to 20 years.
Dishonest people will find ways to cheat whether they use the cap and trade system or something else. Not instituting a cap and trade system will not make dishonest people honest. Following that logic, the IRS should tax everyone 10% of their income and do away with forms and deductions. That way, no one would cheat on their taxes. Fat chance of that happening.
Profits would only be lowered if the company never attempted to improve its emission standards. In fact, those companies who took aggressive actions to improve would profit handsomely by selling unused emission permits. Those companies who would not or could not clean up their act would eventually go out of business. Think of it as a dinosaur becoming extinct.
Consumers will bear the costs of greenhouse gas pollution, whether the Climate Security Act passes or not. Energy prices are bound to increase naturally because humans are depleting oil and gas supplies. Doing nothing to slow climate change until it is proven beyond a doubt will impose a tremendous cost on all humankind.
Beware of people who claim that doing something to better the environment is too costly. These same people rarely calculate the cost of environmental destruction. Perhaps they do not believe that they can destroy the environment. Perhaps they do not care; however, allowing them to destroy the environment is a bad idea, whether they believe they can do it or not.
“Beware of Cap and Trade Climate Bills” The Heritage Foundation: http://www.heritage.org/Research/Economy/wm1723.cfm
“A Carbon Cap with Teeth” The Boston Globe: http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/editorial_opinion/editorials/articles/2009/04/09/a_carbon_cap_with_teeth/
“Cap and Trade 101” Center for American Progress: http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/2008/01/capandtrade101.html