Planet Gore

‘Cap and Trade Returns from the Grave’

A good read from Kimberley Strassel in today’s WSJ:

Cap and trade is dead. Long live cap and trade.

The president presented his new, conciliatory face to the nation this week, and his State of the Union was as notable for what it didn’t include as what it did. He uttered not one word about global warming, a comprehensive climate bill, or his regulatory attempts to reduce carbon. Combined with his decision to give the axe to controversial climate czar Carol Browner, political analysts took all this as further proof that Barack Obama was moving to the middle, making nice with Republicans.

Snort. Guffaw. Chortle.

Listen carefully to Mr. Obama’s speech and you realize he spent plenty of it on carbon controls. He just used a different vocabulary. If the president can’t get carbon restrictions via cap and trade, he’ll get them instead with his new proposal for a “clean energy” standard. Clean energy, after all, sounds better to the public ear, and he might just be able to lure, or snooker, some Republicans into going along.

The official end of cap and trade, and Mrs. Browner, wasn’t conciliation—it was necessity. The public now understands that cap and trade is an economy killer, and no small number of Democrats lost their seats in midterms for supporting it. Few in the party want to take it up again, and House Republicans won’t let it pass. Mr. Obama would be crazy to continue calling for it.

Mrs. Browner, for her part, had become a political liability. As czar, she’s had sweeping control over administration policy—all of it unaccountable. This worked under a Democratic Congress, but House Republicans had made clear they intended to call her to testify. This had the makings of an ugly fight over executive privilege and would have forced the White House to defend a lack of transparency. Better to let the lightning rod go.

But Mr. Obama has no intention of letting go of his carbon-free world. He instead went to plan B. Specifically, he called in his speech for the nation to “join” him in a “new goal: by 2035, 80% of America’s electricity will come from clean energy sources.” What the president was in essence calling for—in happier, fuzzier, broader language—is what policy wonks refer to as a “renewable portfolio standard.” This is a government mandate requiring that utilities produce annually a specific amount of their electricity from renewable sources—wind, solar, biofuels.

The rest here.

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