Last week on the Situation Room, CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer parroted right-wing talking points on global warming. His program emphasized that Monday’s climate crisis protest took place in the cold — a talking point pushed by Sen. Jim Inhofe’s (R-OK) office and global warming deniers from Glenn Beck to Nancy Pfotenhauer. He then followed the Heritage Foundation’s reasoning to challenge Tony Blair on the urgency of establishing a cap on carbon pollution, asking if it is “wise” to “effectively impose a new tax on consumers” instead of dealing with “bread-and-butter issues”:
At a time of this extraordinary economic distress, not only here in the United States but around the world, why go forward right now as a priority with all of these global warming related projects? It seems there are so many other key bread-and-butter issues literally on the table. … Is it wise to go ahead, effectively impose a new tax on consumers right now, an energy-related tax, this uh, uh cap-and-trade if you will, to try to reduce carbon emissions right now? In effect that’s going to be higher costs on consumers who use either gasoline or other electricity, forms of energy. Is that wise at a time of economic distress?
Blitzer summarized: “You say do it now despite all the economic issues.”
Blitzer is missing a few key facts:
Obama’s Cap-And-Trade System Begins In 2012, Not ‘Right Now.’ Nobody is proposing to “impose a new tax on consumers right now.” Instead, global leaders, including President Obama, are working to negotiate the successor treaty to the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2010. The United States needs to have a national climate policy as soon as possible in order to lead these negotiations. Instead of taking action to lead the international community to stop global warming, the Bush administration obstructed efforts. The seeming rush to action is a consequence of these lost years. [WRI, 2002; Platts 2/24/2009]
An Emissions Cap Drives Investment In A Clean Economy. As McKinsey & Company has found, putting a cap on carbon emissions corrects market failures by driving investment into efficiency and fuel economy improvements that actually saves everyone money. Then it spurs investment into the expansion of renewable energy, creating new jobs and a competitive advantage in the international marketplace. Economic analyses of the effect of an increasingly stringent cap, applied over decades, find that the economic impact of the transition to a clean economy is dwarfed by the high volatility of fossil fuel prices. [McKinsey & Co., 11/2007; EDF, 3/11/2008; NRDC 1/28/2009]
Global Warming Is A ‘Key Bread-And-Butter Issue’ That ‘Effectively Imposes’ A Tax On The Most Vulnerable. Global warming is only one of the most serious symptoms of our fossil-based economy, which benefits polluters at the expense of everyone else. Hundreds of billions of dollars flow out of the U.S. economy to oil suppliers; inner-city children suffer from asthma and communities in Appalachia are decimated by the coal industry. And deadly weather like Hurricane Katrina, Iowa’s floods, California’s wildfires, and Texas drought are becoming the new normal. Limiting carbon pollution is key to preserving prosperity today and for future generations. [U.S. Climate Change Science Program, 2008; Tufts University, 4/2008; MIT Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Climate Change, 2009]
Cap And Trade Is Only ‘A New Tax’ If Polluters Pass On The Costs. A cap on emissions only raises costs for those energy producers who can’t find money-saving investments in efficiency and conservation. With the recovery act, Obama has already initiated major federal incentive programs for efficiency and clean energy that subsidize those investments. Obama plans to invest $15 billion a year from the cap-and-trade program to further drive clean energy investment and benefit the power industry. Only if polluters pass on additional costs to consumers — instead of, for example, taking executive pay cuts — will a cap-and-trade system “effectively impose a new tax on consumers.” [Barack Obama, 8/3/2008; Center for American Progress, 1/21/2008]
The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities has explained that a properly designed cap-and-trade system tackles global warming, spurs a clean-energy economy, and insulates working Americans from both energy price volatility and costs passed on to them from industrial polluters:
Auctioning the emissions allowances under a cap-and-trade system would generate more than enough revenue to pay for this consumer relief. Less than 60 percent of the auction revenues would be sufficient to provide relief to a substantial majority of U.S. consumers.