Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Environmental Defense, NRDC Strangely Silent on Obama CO2 Plan

I just checked the websites for the NGO members of USCAP; ED, WRI, NWF,NRDC and the Nature Conservancy for their reaction to Barack Obama's Cap-and-Auction proposal for allocating Carbon Dioxide emissions permits.
See Update below

Not a peep. No comments at all. Zilch, nil, nada.
Not even a mention that the Portsmouth speech happened.
As we quoted in "Eco-Hypocrisy Corporate Style IV":

"Corrupted by wealth & power, your government is like a restaurant with only one dish. They've got a set of Republican waiters on one side & a set of Democratic waiters on the other side. But no matter which set of waiters brings you the dish, the legislative grub is all prepared in the same Wall Street kitchen."
Huey Long

Here are some more blog reactions to cap-and-auction:
From Environmental Economics
Presidential endorsement

Please note: The Environmental Economics blog endorses no political candidate, regardless of the promised position in the government (e.g., Council of Economic Advisors). However, we might endorse a policy proposal from time to time. In that spirit we endorse Obama's carbon cap:...

...Did he mention trading of these allowances (I think so but I don't want to overuse The Google)? That would be even cooler. Although, once you auction the allowances, the need to trade is diminished as competition for allowances encourages firms to bid near their marginal abatement costs.

From's Market Movers:
Barack Obama Gets it Right on Cap-and-Trade

It's great news that the centerpiece of Barack Obama's energy plan is a 100% auction cap-and-trade mechanism. Ryan Avent and Peter Dorman have some niggles, which are on point, but the big picture – that a cap-and-trade system should be based on auctioning permits rather than allocating them – is the main thing, and I look forward to the presidential candidates from both parties following Obama's lead on this one.

It would be interesting to see what Mark Gimein thinks. Gimein, guest-blogging at, describes a carbon tax as "one bad way to fight global warming that both Democrats and Republicans love". I'm not at all sure that a carbon tax is loved by either side of the aisle, and I'm not sure that it's a bad way to fight global warming, either. But if you ask someone like Greg Mankiw, he'll tell you that the differences between a carbon tax and a 100% auction cap-and-trade system are really pretty small. So if the former is a bad idea, does that make the latter a bad idea as well?

EconoSpeak and Climateer Investing are on the same page:
The Obama Carbon Plan

2008 will be the year America debates climate change policy, hopefully without descending completely into election-year inanity. 2009 will be the year we get a policy. For an issue of this magnitude, that’s a fairly short time frame, so every turn of events counts.

Today Barack Obama has gone on record with his own approach. By my reckoning he got almost everything right, but there’s one huge missing piece. He is right on:

• setting a serious target: an 80% reduction in emissions by 2050 is the minimum we should aim for, if we take the scientific evidence seriously. We can get there only by starting soon and staying on course.

• capping carbon emissions: a cap is necessary if we are going to try to live within ecological limits, and it is far preferable to a carbon tax, as I’ve argued earlier on this august site.

• auctioning the permits: as Obama said, letting the cows out of the Barnes, “Businesses don’t own the sky, the public does...”

• rejecting offsets: he doesn’t even mention them.

• investing in a non-carbon future: we need basic R&D, infrastructure and other initiatives to turn our economy around.

The only element that’s lacking is a commitment to rebating most of the auction revenues back to the people on a per capita basis. Economically, this is necessary to protect real incomes and avoid a dangerous contraction of consumer demand. (The higher energy prices we will be paying under any reasonable cap will be in the hundreds of billions of dollars.) Politically, it is necessary to win support for tough limits on carbon emissions. After all, if it is true that we own the sky, we should share in the income it generates. Finally, a per capita rebate would constitute the most progressive income redistribution program since the New Deal, a big consideration at a time of spiraling inequality.

So how do you finance those green investments if you give the money back? Answer: by ending pork barrel subsidies to the nuclear and fossil fuel mafias ($24B give or take a few) and rethinking national security, for starters. NB: if rebating the auction proceeds on an equal share basis is highly progressive, withholding a big chunk of it for other uses is highly regressive. Finance public investment out of taxes.

Here's The Bellows:

David Roberts and Brian Beutler are discussing the Obama energy plan, and as they note, there are some things to like. Best of all is the stringent cap-and-trade program for which permits are auctioned off. That’s a big deal, and if we’re not going to go the carbon tax route, then this is the second best option.

I’m a lot less excited about the billions of dollars promised to research efforts on things like carbon capture and sequestration, or “the next generation of biofuels and fuel delivery infrastructure, accelerating commercial production of plug-in hybrid vehicles, promoting larger-scale renewable energy projects and low-emission coal plants, and making the electricity grid digital.” Not that those wouldn’t be great things. It’s just that 1) if we price carbon correctly, firms will have lots of incentives to do this stuff anyway, without billions in public money. And 2) there are large opportunity costs to spending money on projects for which the payoff is unsure–namely, we can’t spend that money on things NOW that we KNOW will pay off....

Update: The ever-vigilant Director of internet strategy for ED sent this email:
"Hi, just wanted to let you know that there's a very good reason why Environmental Defense is not commenting on Obama's plan. We're incorporated as a 501c3 charitable organization, so we're not permitted to engage in electioneering. If we appeared to endorse or oppose any candidate, our tax status would be in jeopardy. Saying anything about Obama's plan would cross that line."