Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Cap and Trade

"CAP and TRADE WON"T WORK!" or so I hear everyday from the opponents of the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 currently making it's way around Capital Hill.

Those who want to defeat this bill proclaim as fact, that the bill will result in the destruction of small business, will send millions of jobs overseas as these "struggling" energy behemoths will not be able to afford to meet the harsh standards the government will heartlessly impose. They alarm the citizens of our fair land with predictions of uncontrollable skyrocketing prices on everything we consume. According to the detractors of the energy bill, these same innocent corporations will have no choice but to burden the American people with the unbearable costs associated with their valiant attempt to comply with their federal masters' demands. The same voices lauding free enterprise, praising the ingenuity of the American businessman, extolling the virtues of the market economy shout that there is no way that the energy industry will be able to meet even the initial demands which would not be imposed for 2-3 years.

But something keeps nagging me from the recesses of my mind. That phrase dripping with ill omens seems familiar. Cap and Trade, have we seen that phrase before? Yes, the 1990 Clean Air act included a cap and trade program to combat acid rain, by reducing sulfur dioxide and later nitrous oxide emissions. The market-based system was designed to incentives compliance rather than simply fine and tax companies into compliance. The program aimed to reduce SO2 emissions to 10 million tons below 1980 levels. In order to achieve this goal, industry was forced to upgrade power plants, add scrubbers, build new plants, etc. The EPA estimated that the cost of the program at $6 billion, industry predicted higher costs.

And what happened? It worked! We achieved 100% compliance in reducing sulfur dioxide emissions in the 1990s but industry did not stop at reaching the Fed's goal. Power plants took advantage of the allowance banking provision to reduce SO2 emissions 22% below mandated levels. What about the cost? OMB estimates that the actual cost was between $1 and $2 billion, far below both government and industry predictions.

Is the current bill before Congress the right bill? I don't know. What I do know is that history and my belief in American business says the awful predictions being spewed by those determined to stop this bill are not guaranteed and are very possibly wrong. Just read my last post to see how one major corporation found a way to comply before compliance was even demanded. I say instead of spreading fear, let's sit down and honestly evaluate the FACTS and do something that America seems to have never done, establish a comprehensive energy policy. Using the tools of private enterprise and the government, there is no challenge we can not face with hope.

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