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Jeff Bingaman Perfects the Art of the Conditional Sellout

By Matthew Yglesias on March 6, 2009 at 5:44 pm

"Jeff Bingaman Perfects the Art of the Conditional Sellout"

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Jeff Bingaman is ready to waive the white flag on auctioning carbon permits in a cap-and-trade scheme. Kevin Drum’s got the response on policy, but it’s worth pointing to Bingaman’s phrasing:

Bingaman said any Congressionally developed system capping and trading emissions probably will include carbon allowances given to polluters like cement factories and coal-burning power plants, along with permits that are sold. [...] “I think it’s unlikely we will pass a cap-and-trade bill with 100 percent auction,” Bingaman told reporters at the Platts Energy Podium. He said such a system has the risk of substantially increasing the burden on some utilities and major emitters.

When you’re a Democratic Senator, you often face a conflict of interests. On the one hand, you would really like to sell out to anti-reform special interests. On the other hand, you can’t openly portray yourself as someone who wants to sell out. One appealing option is to do what Bingaman does here and just cite unspecified political obstacles. Not that the obstacles aren’t real. But in the U.S. Senate they’re also people, with names. But instead of naming names, Bingaman’s just offering the vagueness play. He’d love to do the right thing, but it’s “unlikely” to happen. And everyone can do this. Nobody needs to be the Senator who’s against a public plan in health care, or who’s against a 100 percent auction. Instead, everyone’s just being practical for the sake of someone else.

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