Speaking with CNN’s Glenn Beck on Friday, former GOP presidential candidate and current McCain economic adviser Steve Forbes disparaged Sen. McCain’s signature plan to put mandatory reductions on greenhouse gases with a cap-and-trade system. McCain has repeatedly pointed to his record on promoting global warming legislation as a key distinction between himself and the current president. Forbes predicted:
I think cap and trade is going to go the way of some other things, as you may remember, when he came into office, Bill Clinton had a proposal of tax carbons and stuff like that. I don’t think those things are going to get very far as people start to examine the details of them.
On July 9, conservative journalist Larry Kudlow reported that he was told “on deep background” by a “senior McCain official” that McCain was off cap-and-trade. The campaign publicly responded that “any notion that the senator is abandoning or minimizing his support for cap-and-trade is ‘totally false.'” Forbes is signaling that Kudlow may be right, and McCain will follow in the footsteps of George W. Bush. As a candidate in 2000, Bush pledged to impose mandatory reductions of carbon dioxide, but reversed that position once he took the oath of office. In 2001, newly elected Vice President Dick Cheney said of Bush’s pledge, “It was a mistake.”
Contrary to right-wing talking points, a cap-and-trade system is not in fact a tax (or even a “stealth tax”). Critically, cap-and-trade provides “emissions certainty” — ensuring that pollution does not exceed a certain level, whereas a carbon tax would place no such limits. At WorldChanging, Alan Durning explains how the most flexible regulatory system for managing global warming pollution would be using both policy instruments: cap-and-trade and a carbon tax. With the stark need to arrest global climate change as fast as possible, we will need all the tools in the chest.
BECK: Then explain this to me, Steve, because I know you’re a John McCain guy and I’m not a John McCain guy. I mean, I don’t have any guy in the running right now.
FORBES: Why aren’t you running?
BECK: I would vaporize too many cities. Here’s the thing, John McCain may be good on income tax, and he says that he gets that and I’ve seen his plan, and it’s good. But in the same plan, he talks about cap and trade. Gigantic tax programs, the biggest ever created. So you’re taking, sure, I’m not giving income tax, but I’m getting it here and here.
FORBES: Yes. I think cap and trade is going to go the way of some other things, as you may remember, when he came into office, Bill Clinton had a proposal of tax carbons and stuff like that. I don’t think those things are going to get very far as people start to examine the details of them.
BECK: But shouldn’t he have examined those details, Steve? Shouldn’t he have known that’s a bad idea?
FORBES: Yes, well, he’s moving in the right direction. You got to give him credit. He’s now for really having active exploration offshore. Going full bore on nuclear power plants, 45 in the next 20 to 25 years and that’s another thing that the Democrats are squirming about. People know we should do more offshore production and drilling and they wish that issue would go away and we’re not going to let it go away.