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Ned Helme

Ned Helme

Ned Helme, founder of the Center for Clean Air Policy, advises U.S. and foreign governments, on climate and air policy issues. ALL POSTS

Cap and trade is the best pathway for clean energy future

Q: As the prospects for a climate bill get dimmer, some in Congress have said the solution is not to limit U.S. emissions but instead invest in green technology (wind, solar or earth's natural heat) that might be able to produce the same energy but with less pollution. Is this a good way to go, instead of setting a legal limit on emissions?

Green technology and renewable energy must be part of a national energy and climate policy. However, the most cost-effective way to transition to a low-carbon economy is through market-based instruments such as cap and trade, which is the cornerstone of the American Clean Energy and Security Act -- passed by the House last summer -- and the Senate's Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act (CEJAPA). Capping greenhouse gas emissions and putting a price on carbon will drive innovation and investment needed to create the clean energy jobs of the future and ensure U.S. leadership in new energy technologies.

In his State of the Union address President Obama stated that "the nation that leads the clean energy economy will be the nation that leads the global economy. And America must be that nation." As it stands, other countries are surpassing America in developing the clean energy technology of the future. For example, China has taken bold action to reduce emissions and deploy renewable energy and energy efficiency on a grand scale. It led the world in renewables investment in 2007 and it is expected to surpass Germany as the world leader in investment in renewable sources as a percentage of its economy in 2010. Its vehicle efficiency standards are years ahead of the U.S. Additionally, China dedicated 40 percent of its economic stimulus package toward renewable energy, low carbon vehicles, high speed rail and other energy projects; the U.S. is spending roughly 10 percent of its recovery package on similar programs. China has recognized, perhaps more quickly than the U.S., the economic benefits of expanded energy efficiency and renewable energy and the global economic opportunity that exists to lead in these new markets.

It's clear that cap and trade will give businesses the certainty they need to make critical investments to transition to cleaner technologies and create jobs. Another benefit is the auction of allowances in a cap and trade system would generate revenue that can be used to expand energy efficiency and lessen the impact of higher energy prices on consumers. Additionally, funds from the auction could also be used to support U.S. commitments to help developing countries address deforestation, reduce emissions and respond to climate change impacts.

Our goal should be to encourage more emissions reductions by all nations and to invest in our clean energy so we do not fall behind in the race to lead the market for new technologies. Cap and trade is our best pathway to reach that goal. The Senate should continue on its unified energy and climate strategy rather than pursue only one piece of the puzzle.

By Ned Helme  |  February 5, 2010; 3:48 PM ET Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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Cap & Trade is a fine way to create a profitable market for pollution credits, but it does not require a reduction of carbon emissions across the board, and therefore it will have the unintended consequence of the incentive to avoid the expense altogether. Areas of the country where state governments are willing to trade pollution for economic development might even result from this non-answer to a serious question.

If the desire of the people is to create the incentive to stop pollution, then the only way to accomplish this is to phase out the right to pollute, not charge for the privilege.

Posted by: Zingdhao | February 7, 2010 5:18 PM
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Most Americans don't want to pay $8.00/gallon for gas. If you haven't noticed unemployment is sky high. Anyways, Man caused global warming is a lie. Wake up. The sky is not falling. Al Gore is an idiot. Stop drinking his cool-aid.

Posted by: Senator_Salesman | February 7, 2010 4:13 PM
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The atmosphere over the United States is a collective resource owned by the people, not heavily polluting corporate interests. We should not be handing out the right to pollute for free. A carbon tax is the answer. If gas was $8/gal., it would solve a great many of the nation's ills. We can use the extra money to offset the income tax. Tax what you want less of!

Posted by: iollmann | February 7, 2010 12:13 PM
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Setting aside the fact that there are entire forests around the world that were on the verge of being burned or ripped out that now are being saved for sustainable logging, farming or other uses, or bombed-out looking landscapes now being reforested, all due to various carbon credits programs, as long as American elites--elites are not just the wealthy, but also idea gatekeepers--are determined to forever redouble America's population, all such efforts will be automatically redirected into seeing how many more hundreds of millions of people we can sardine into the United States in a way that environmental quality and resource supply will deteriorate somewhat less rapidly than it would have without these otherwise good but naïve green schemes.
- - - -
Border Control + Immigration Moratorium = Job, Crime and Eco Sanity.

Posted by: tma_sierrahills | February 7, 2010 12:08 PM
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How much did Lloyd Blankfein pay you to write this article?

Posted by: menelyik | February 7, 2010 7:41 AM
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Deep conservation is the most important approach.

The largest uses of energy in the world are in space heating of homes and businesses (improvable by 80%), and in transportation of people and freight (also improvable by 80%).

The largest source of carbon emissions are in the areas of "if everyone did it" (homes and cars), not so much in the areas of industrial carbon sink or electrical generation, that are the sole subject of cap and trade.

In homes and other buildings, moderate capital investments will realize 80% energy savings. Most homes are pre-existing, so it makes sense to think largely in terms of retrofits (deep energy), rather than original design and construction (which can realize near 0 net energy consumption, - passive solar heating and photovoltaic roofing).

Currently, utility funded energy audits are targeted to minor capital investments and low-hanging fruit (very helpful, but not capable of realizing 80% savings).

If there are to be incentives, it would be useful to provide tax or other incentives on say $50,000 of energy related improvements, rather than only on $5,000. ($50,000 buys a second thermal envelope, tight.) That way, homeowners can make significant improvements to their energy profile thinking in terms of 50 years benefit (decreased bills, improved comfort, increased home value), actual capital investments.

With transportation, it takes new models of transportation services. Rather than encouraging car ownership, public policy should encourage transportation service companies, including in its portfolio of services leasing of highly energy efficient primary vehicles, access to fleets of functional and more luxury vehicles for special purposes, frequent mass transit even in more rural areas, commuter services.

Most importantly, regional economic focus reduces the length of trips, and net miles driven, over global scale manufacturing and distribution.

Richard Witty

Posted by: rswitty | February 7, 2010 6:39 AM
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Dan Rather did a show on "carbon credits" and pretty much stated that it's a joke. If you feel otherwise I suggest you look for his show on the matter on HDNET, or Itunes.

Posted by: AForgottenMan | February 6, 2010 7:15 PM
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This Brand New Video Blows a Huge Gaping Hole in Obama's Cap and Tax Scheme:

Posted by: CommieBlaster | February 6, 2010 6:52 PM
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First, China is NOT taking "bold action to reduce emissions." Just in case you didn't read what was going on in Copenhagen, China linked their emissions to their GDP; as their GDP increases, so will their emissions -- and they'll still be following their "feel good" agreement.

Second, Cap and Trade is nothing less than a shell game. It's one thing to cap emissions, but when you add in the trade, you are allowing a business to continue with their emissions; they just have to find a trade partner that was never emitting anything anyway!

Cap and Trade was never, is not, and will never be an effective way to decrease emissions, and you should stop pretending that it is! China never agreed to a real decrease in their emissions, and you should stop pretending that they did! Just like ClimateGate, when you start providing us with the truth, you will get effective and acceptable emission control.

Posted by: c0lnag0 | February 6, 2010 3:29 PM
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Cap and trade is one of the goofiest ideas to come along in decades. We should place some pollution targets for key industries and polluters, and then help them pay for the changes through a combination of regulation and tax breaks provided that they keep the industries and jobs in the US. All that cap and trade will do is to drive more nails into the coffin of industrial America.

Obama could start with mandating the use of 6 cylinder SUVs and trucks. Those few people who might think they actually need an 8 cylinder can drive slower or take more trips to deliver lighter cargo. If everyone has to do it, eventually the playing field will level and people will adjust. But Obama won't do that because the UAW likes building the big SUVs and 8 cylinder trucks because they're more profitable and they can keep their bloated wages as a result.

Posted by: ripvanwinkleincollege | February 6, 2010 3:28 PM
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You would do better by picking up cow turds on the prairie and burning them. Have any of you ever calculated how much energy is wasted making those fancy propellors that are cropping up all over the place and then connecting them to the power grid?

Posted by: edfo | February 6, 2010 10:25 AM
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You know, you guys really don't get it. When you start preaching the Albore nonsense people tune you out. Moreover, the science of Gorebal Whining just isn't on your side.

However, if you guys started talking patriotism, started getting nationalistic, started preaching self-reliance, started preaching improving the trade deficit, and also throw in cleaner air as a side benefit, my guess is people would listen to you. You might not get everything you wanted, but you would get most of it.

As an example, if you started bashing the middle East, pointing out that generally speaking they really loathe us, and that the oil money that we send there is supporting regimes that dispise us and our way of life, and point out that by adding solar and wind that people will stop supporting regimes that most of us find to be repugnant. And by doing so, you also improve our balance of trade, and also make our country more self reliant, and point out that we'll have cleaner air to boot. I think you would find that for your average American that it would strike a reasonant chord.

However, if you guys keep preaching your doom and gloom scenario, keep running around like Chicken Little, and keep promising punative measures, no one will listen to you. Not a chance.

Posted by: A1965bigdog | February 6, 2010 7:59 AM
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Cap and Trade is about wealth transfers from ordinary citizens to large corporations and to a lesser extent the 3rd world.

It would achieve nothing that a $1/gal tax on gas would not, without the ridiculous bureaucracy this guy is pushing.

Not that I'm pushing a gas tax, simply pointing out the follow of raising energy prices just to give it to carbon brokerages.

Posted by: Ombudsman1 | February 6, 2010 7:27 AM
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See what a Fraud Global Warming is!! These are some of the E-mails of Scientist who are advising the United Nations, The EPA, and Your U.S. Congress! Discover for yourself America.

Mann e-mail of 11 Mar 2003
In one e-mail, as a response to an e-mail indicating that a paper in the scientific journal Climate Research had questioned assertions that the 20th century was abnormally warm, Mann wrote:

“I think we have to stop considering Climate Research as a legitimate peer-reviewed journal. Perhaps we should encourage our colleagues in the climate research community to no longer submit to, or cite papers in, this journal."[37]

Jones e-mail of 8 Jul 2004
An 8 July 2004 e-mail from Phil Jones to Michael Mann said in part:

"The other paper by MM is just garbage. [...] I can't see either of these papers being in the next IPCC report. Kevin and I will keep them out somehow — even if we have to redefine what the peer-review literature is!"

Jones e-mail of 2 Feb 2005
A 2 February 2005 email from Phil Jones to Michael Mann includes:

"And don't leave stuff lying around on ftp sites - you never know who is trawling them. The two MMs have been after the CRU station data for years. If they ever hear there is a Freedom of Information Act now in the UK, I think I'll delete the file rather than send to anyone. Does your similar act in the US force you to respond to enquiries within 20 days?—ours does! The UK works on precedents, so the first request will test it. We also have a data protection act, which I will hide behind.”

Trenberth e-mail of 12 Oct 2009
An email written by Kevin Trenberth, a climatologist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, discussed gaps in understanding of recent temperature variations:

"The fact is that we can't account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a travesty that we can't,"[

Phil Jones
"I've just completed Mike's Nature TRICK of adding in the real temps to each series for the last 20 years (ie, from 1981 onwards) and from 1961 for Keith's to HIDE THE DECLINE."[

You don't have to be a Climate Scientist to understand this. We are supposed to invest Trillions of Dollars based on the manipulation of Data by Corrupt Scientist? Thank God for Senator Inhofe!

Posted by: Senator_Salesman | February 5, 2010 9:49 PM
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Here are a Few of the MANY Scientists Who Believe Global Warming is Primarily Caused by Natural Processes and NOT because of Greenhouse gases!

- William M. Gray, Professor of Atmospheric Science, Colorado State University [1] [2]

- Sallie Baliunas, astronomer, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics [1]

- Don Easterbrook, emeritus professor of geology, Western Washington University [1]

- Khabibullo Abdusamatov, mathematician and astronomer at Pulkovskaya Observatory of the Russian Academy of Sciences [1]

- Fred Singer, Professor emeritus of Environmental Sciences at the University of Virginia [1] [2]

- Frederick Seitz, retired, former solid-state physicist, former president of the National Academy of Sciences [1]

- Willie Soon, astrophysicist, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics [1]

- George V. Chilingar, Professor of Civil and Petroleum Engineering at the University of Southern California [1]

- Ian Clark, hydrogeologist, professor, Department of Earth Sciences, University of Ottawa [1]

- Richard Lindzen, Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Atmospheric Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology [1]

I will listen to these guys instead of Al Gore who thinks the “Earth’s core temperature is several millions of degrees”. Al is also Vice President of the CHICAGO (hint) Climate Exchange and stands to make Billions if Cap and Trade legislation passes. That almost sounds like a conflict of interest? Hmmmmmm

Posted by: Senator_Salesman | February 5, 2010 9:47 PM
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