The nation’s first comprehensive climate law, expected to be sealed with a vote in the U.S. House of Representatives on Friday, will not look anything like the program imagined by either climate economists or those in Washington and the environmental movement who had faith in bipartisan action.
From the time that the world first agreed to act on climate change 30 years ago at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, environmentalists talked about putting a “price” on carbon as a core element of any strategy for reducing the fossil fuel pollution that was heating the planet.
Whether imposed by tax, fee or cap-and-trade system—such a price would discourage carbon-based fuel pollution and encourage investment in and deployment of clean alternatives, said advocates of the idea. And because such a scheme would rely on the market, rather than government mandates, to decide the best approach to decarbonize, proponents argued it was an idea both Democrats and Republicans could get behind.
Instead, Democrats are advancing their climate bill with no Republican support, and their program is one of carrots, not sticks. The idea is that an unprecedented $370 billion federal investment in clean energy—largely in the form of tax credits to encourage its development, as opposed to taxes on carbon to discourage use of fossil fuels—will be the push that transforms not only the economy but the politics of climate change. [Continue reading…]