The Devil's in the Details: Time Bombs Buried in Cap-and-Trade

Buried in the 900-odd pages of legislation promoted by Messrs. Waxman and Markey (official name:
The Let’s-Hogtie-the-American-Economy-and-Throw-It-In-the-Ditch Act of 2009) is language that would cede control of local building codes to the Department of Energy if states and municipalities fail to meet draconian goals to cut carbon emissions in the future. (See the Washington Post editorial quoted below.)

Let’s do a quick accounting of the pros and cons of Crap Cap-and-Trade. On the negative side, it will cost $1500 to $3000 per family, cost millions of jobs, cripple the economy relative to China and India, create a massive new bureaucracy and introduce a new intangible speculative vehicle for financial traders to play with. On top of that, it opens the door to federalization of one of the most fundamental items of local control, building codes.

OK, but on the positive side, if there’s really global warming, and if our actions can really affect global temperature, and if China and India sign on, and if we can really cut each person’s carbon footprint by 80% (back to 1867 levels), and if all the climate models are correct, then we might save or create -0.8 degrees of global average temperature by 2050.


Note that the “cons” are all relatively certain and happen now. The “pro” is anything but certain, and the outcome is out of our control.

The running joke in Washington is that nobody has read the 900-plus-page energy bill sponsored by Reps. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.) and Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), which the House will consider in coming weeks. What you hear from its backers is that its cap-and-trade provisions would create a market-based program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions — which should mean that a simple, systemwide incentive encourages polluters to make the easiest reductions in greenhouse gases first, keeping the costs of fighting global warming to a minimum. In fact, the bill also contains regulations on everything from light bulb standards to the specs on hot tubs, and it will reshape America’s economy in dozens of ways that many don’t realize.

Here is just one: The bill would give the federal government power over local building codes. It requires that by 2012 codes must require that new buildings be 30 percent more efficient than they would have been under current regulations. By 2016, that figure rises to 50 percent, with increases scheduled for years after that. With those targets in mind, the bill expects organizations that develop model codes for states and localities to fill in the details, creating a national code. If they don’t, the bill commands the Energy Department to draft a national code itself. [emphasis added]

Worried yet?

Among other things, the policy would demonstrate the new leverage of allocation of allowances as a sort of carbon currency — leverage this bill would be giving to Congress to direct state behavior. [Where have we heard that before? – ed.] …

Is the best way to achieve [energy efficiency goals], though, to federalize what has long been a matter of local concern? And if the point of cap-and-trade is to change market incentives, why does Congress, and not the market, need to dictate these changes? Those are a few questions that emerge when you begin to read through the 900 pages.

The Post gets it right – Cap-and-Trade is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. It is purportedly a market-based solution, but buried in it, in the 900 pages that no one has bothered to read, are the seeds of Central Planning and Control.

H/T Cooler Heads Digest of the Competitive Enterprise Institute