Energizing Cap and Trade Discussions – Part 3 (The “Pro” Argument)

In the mid-1990s I frequently worked in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. The city supported around 1 million people, nearly half of which were transients living in small tents called “gers.” The “ger” communities had no real infrastructure such Air Pollution in Mongoliaas electricity or water, and subsequently used raw coal in stoves as a primary heat source, and those people who had a little money occasionally had small gas generators for minimal electricity.

In those days unleaded gasoline did not exist in Mongolia, and transportation was either older used cars from Korea and Germany, or even more often Russian made vehicles such as Ladas or Volgas. During the winter months Ulaanbaatar’s air was so bad you did not dare to wear any clothing with exposed white, as it would soon be covered with black soot, which could never really be cleaned.

Our employees were frequently ill, at a rate that is unprecedented in offices I’ve worked in over 35 years. Sadly, people also died at a much younger age, with respiratory problems and cancer being the most frequent cause. A very unhealthy place live and work.

What Cap and Trade Tries to Accomplish

Cap and Trade programs try to limit production and impact of CO2 emissions and production of greenhouse gases resulting in pollution and potentially global warming. The Environmental Protection Agency/EPA identifies Cap and Trade as programs which “reward innovation, efficiency, and early action, providing strict environmental accountability without inhibiting economic growth.” In addition to providing incentives and penalties on the production of CO2, Cap and Trade programs have also included projects focuse don controlling Acid rain, NOx, and another US program called the Clean Air Interstate Rule (CAIR).

California Cap and Trade

California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, or California AB 32, establishes a “first-in-the-world comprehensive program of regulatory and market mechanisms to achieve real, quantifiable, cost-effective reductions of greenhouse gases (GHG).” AB 32 assigns responsibility to the California Air Resources Board/ARB to:

  • Establish a statewide GHG emissions cap for 2020, based on 1990 emissions by January 1, 2008
  • Adopt mandatory reporting rules for significant sources of greenhouse gases by January 1, 2008
  • Adopt a plan by January 1, 2009 indicating how emission reductions will be achieved from significant GHG sources via regulations, market mechanisms and other actions
  • Adopt regulations by January 1, 2011 to achieve the maximum technologically feasible and cost-effective reductions in GHGs, including provisions for using both market mechanisms and alternative compliance mechanisms
  • Convene an Environmental Justice Advisory Committee and an Economic and Technology Advancement Advisory Committee to advise ARB
  • Ensure public notice and opportunity for comment for all ARB actions
  • Prior to imposing any mandates or authorizing market mechanisms, requires ARB to evaluate several factors, including but not limited to: impacts on California’s economy, the environment, and public health; equity between regulated entities; electricity reliability, conformance with other environmental laws, and to ensure that the rules do not disproportionately impact low-income communities
  • Adopt a list of discrete, early action measures by July 1, 2007 that can be implemented before January 1, 2010 and adopt such measures (AB 32)

California also belongs to the Western Climate Initiative (WCI), which includes US states and provinces, including:

  • British Colombia
  • Manitoba
  • Ontario
  • Quebec
  • Montana
  • New Mexico
  • Utah
  • Arizona
  • Oregon
  • Washington
  • And of course California

The WCI is a regional Cap and Trade system which will exceed federal initiatives, with implementation planned by 2015. When implemented the program will address 90% of the greenhouse gases produced within the member states and provinces. Specific program design includes:

  • Provides opportunities to obtain low-cost emission reductions through emission trading, allowance banking, and inclusion of an offsets component
  • Is intended to mitigate economic impacts, including impacts on consumers, income, and employment
  • Balances all principles adopted by the WCI Partner jurisdictions to maximize total benefits throughout the region, including reducing air pollutants, diversifying energy sources, and advancing economic, environmental, and public health objectives, while also avoiding localized or disproportionate environmental or economic impacts

Opinions on Cap and Trade

In Part 1 of this series we posted a link to the Federal Cap and Trade Policy Primer. Using this primer as a reference, we can look at some of the opinions driving public reaction to Cap and Trade, in this case mostly positive (this is the “Pro” segment of the series!). rather than list dozens of positive opinions on the topic (readers can just as easily do a Google search on Cap and trade and list hundreds of pro and con opinions), we will hit a couple highlights.

Overall, I still give Representatives Henry Waxman of California and Edward Markey of Massachusetts a solid “B.”  I’m grading on a curve–the curve of political reality. Straight A’s are hard to come by with oil, coal, and other industries spending almost $80 million lobbying on climate policy in just the past three months (pdf). (Alan Durning)

 I love Waxman-Markey’s scope. It is comprehensive, covering essentially all fossil fuels, along with most other greenhouse gases.

The 2050 goal of Cap and Trade is a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 83% below 2005 levels. This brings us beyond carbon is only 40 years! (Durning)

Waxman-Markey is comprehensive in scope, including essentially all fossil fuels, along with certain other measurable greenhouse gases. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that Waxman-Markey’s cap would cover about 72 percent of US emissions in 2012; by 2020, it would cover 86 percent. (Sightline.Org)

The Bottom Line

Another morning looking over the port, and in the direction of Palos Verdes. While only a few miles from downtown Long Beach, it is almost impossible to see the Palos Verdes Peninsula due to the haze and smog generated from both the port, and the oil refineries in San Pedro and the harbor area. We need both the port, and the refineries. Nobody can argue that point.

Hazy Evening Over the Port of Long BeachHowever the move from old diesel engines to cleaner diesel within the port. The move to natural gas to drive trucking and container movement within the port. Reducing emissions from automobiles through introduction of natural gas (CNG) engines and elimination of gasoline. Increased use of cleaner public transportation such as trains and buses. Many things we can and must do to bring our community back into a reasonable environment, while still promoting and protecting the port economy.

On June 4th the Alaskan Navigator, a huge oil tanker from Valdez, Alaska, docked at the Port of Long Beach. The “Navigator” is unique. While in port the Navigator plugged into the shore-side electrical grid. The ship’s diesels turned off, and power within the ship was provided entirely by dockside power. Normally ships in port burn diesel to power on-board systems, and in a worst case burn diesel sludge, which is the dirtiest dreg of fuel. The LA Times described the fuel used by the average ship in port as the “energy equivalent of a days worth of driving 187,000 cars (4 June 2009 – articles.latimes.com).

The Navigator, and other ships in production, will have a major positive impact on the air quality within the Ports of Long Beach/LA, and the entire Los Angeles basin. Cap and Trade programs in California and at the federal level will continue to force similar projects, and Angelinos – as well as all Americans, will benefit from the effort.

Again, study the issues. Learn about Cap and Trade and greenhouse gases, with the impact all may have on the environment. It is our world, and we have an obligation, and right, to have our voices heard.

 

John Savageau, Long Beach

Energizing Cap and Trade Discussions – Part 2 (The “Con” Argument)

Nearly all people agree protecting the environment is critical to our continued prosperity and health. However there are arguments on how to best approach legislation that would either regulate or offer guidance on controlling pollutants and waste.

On the Cap and Trade issue, which is part of the American Clean Energy and Security (ACES) Act (H.R. 2454, or “Waxman-Markey”, most of the arguments are related to the potential high financial cost of reducing carbon dioxide. Those critical of H.R. 2454 list many reasons to reject the bill, with some of the highlights including:

  • Huge increases in the cost of gasoline (due to higher taxes)
  • US jobs will be lost
  • The bill will not reduce our reliance on foreign energy
  • Similar efforts in Europe have not been successful (under debate)
  • Potential to lose control of carbon credits in open trading markets
  • Does not force electric utilities using fossil fuels to re-engineer with technology that would reduce carbon
  • Economies in coal-producing states could be devastated
  • The American people would pay the full price of Cap and Trade with personal tax and cost hits of nearly $2000/year per family (Spectator.Org)
  • Belief that global warming due to greenhouse gases is a fantasy

While it is clear much of the debate is based on politics and corporate special interest lobbying, a couple of the above points do justify further study and discussion. The most compelling argument may be the high cost of carbon credits being passed down to individuals, as well as the potential impact on jobs and local economies as fossil fuel-producing industries are forced to either re-engineer, or scale back operations.

The Politics of Carbon

Political action organizations have always been part of American politics. For those of us who frequently do research over the Internet, it is important to keep in mind a pretty web page can be a simple façade that will be easily accepted as fact, but in fact be well-prepared propaganda from a source aggressively trying to influence a reader to their point of view.

If you read a newspaper, such as the LA Times or Washington Post, you have a reasonable expectation the publication will provide a representation of events that will factually inform the reader on the topic or event. Editors go to great pain ensuring facts are checked prior to committing a story to print, as the reputation of the journalist, editor, and publication are at stake.

When we learn a journalist has misrepresented or presented facts in error, it generally results in an additional news story with a public explanation by both the editor and publication on the hows and whys of the error, and what they are doing to prevent future errors.

The Internet does not regulate web sites at the same level as mainstream news publications. A website on the Internet claiming to be a legitimate news outlet may in reality be a facade for a political action group, or other organization trying to influence thought through propaganda or other thought controls.

In the debate over Cap and Trade, global warming, greenhouse gas effect, and other issues down to whale harvesting, both sides of the debate will present their arguments as fact, but when you peel off the façade you will discover the information being presented is provided by an organization aggressively providing their own thought leadership.

For example, the website energytomorrow.org has a great home page. American flags flying, the impression of patriotism, and a call to action on web pages filled with facts provided by,… well, the American Petroleum Institute. The American Petroleum Institute (API):

is the only national trade association that represents all aspects of America’s oil and natural gas industry. Our 400 corporate members, from the largest major oil company to the smallest of independents, come from all segments of the industry. They are producers, refiners, suppliers, pipeline operators and marine transporters, as well as service and supply companies that support all segments of the industry. (http://energytomorrow.org/About/)

If the Cap and Trade bill is passed, and as the bill is written places much of the burden of carbon reporting and reduction on the “upstream” end of energy production and consumption, then the API will likely have to pay a large percentage of the price to re-engineer our energy industries. This can be translated as “lower profits.”

However the home page is filled with facts, which are backed by other groups such as the Heritage Foundation, which has the taglin on their very patriotic website as The Heritage Foundation, conservative policy research since 1973.

In All Fairness…

In part 3 of this series we will look at the Pro side of the Cap and Trade issue. The pro side will have equally aggressive propaganda to support their side of the debate. Much of it based on information provided through less than factual journalistic sources.

And it is reasonable to expect the average American will pay a price for carbon reduction in our lifetimes. A price that will help bring legislation and controls which will clean the environment, lessen our probability of health problems due to pollution, and quite possibly have a positive impact on slowing down the process of global warming through reduction of greenhouse gases.

LA Skyline via Telephoto from Long BeachIt is also true that if we blindly accept either side of the debate, we will run a high risk of accepting a solution that is dished up by a special interest group, and may not fully consider all aspects of either the issue or the proposed solutions. So bring on the debate.

A Call to Action, Part 2

This issue will affect all Americans, and all other residents of our planet. We all need to learn more about both the cons, and the pros of the Cap and Trade issue, carbon, greenhouse gasses, energy production and science – it will affect all of us and future generations. Learn, and then relentlessly go after your elected representatives with your opinions, and even better your suggestions to help solve and deal with the issue.

Looking out over the Port of Long Beach and the LA Basin, and seeing (or not seeing) the levels of pollution in the air, not being able to see Catalina Island this afternoon, barely being able to see the LA skyline – well, that is a fact. We residents of the LA area and Southern California have the right and obligation to be aware and knowledgeable.

John Savageau, Long Beach

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