March 29, 2010

Who Killed Cap-and-Trade?

Robert Stavins:
But the most important factor—by far—which led to the change from politically correct to politically anathema was the simple fact that cap-and-trade was the approach that was receiving the most serious consideration, indeed the approach that had been passed by one of the houses of Congress. This brought not only great scrutiny of the approach, but—more important—it meant that all of the hostility to action on climate change, mainly but not exclusively from Republicans and coal-state Democrats, was targeted at the policy du jour—cap-and-trade.

The same fate would have befallen any front-running climate policy.
Unfortunately, I think he's right. There's a weird kabuki quality to policy debates in Washington, in that they must follow certain formal conventions, divorced from actual content. The health care battle was a classic example: Democrats propose A; Republicans denounce A as socialism; conservative Democrats say they'll will only support a bipartisan, watered-down version of A -- call it A* -- which the Republicans also denounce as socialism; lather, rinse, repeat. And never mind that A, A**, A***, &c., were once supported by Republicans back in the day. Things turned out well in the end, of course, (about which more later) but this is no way to discuss public policy.

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