A married couple, both EPA attorneys in San Francisco, have caused a brouhaha in Washington by posting a ten-minute YouTube video criticizing the Waxman-Markey effort at cap-and-trade.
In “The Huge Mistake,” Alan Zabel and Laurie Williams — who each have 20 years of experience in EPA’s San Francisco regional office — argue in clear, unemotional terms that cap-and-trade will simply turn into a boondoggle for phony “emissions credits,” which don’t accomplish anything except making energy more expensive.
Zabel and Williams cite one instance in Europe where manufacturers of a refrigerant had a by-product that was deemed a greenhouse gas more harmful than carbon dioxide. Rather than simply capturing and destroying it, a fairly easy process, they began selling its destruction to utilities as an emissions credit. Soon profits from selling the credits were double the profits of making the refrigerant. Thanks to that perverse incentivize, they began to manufacture more refrigerant just to sell its by-product. Although European regulators have spotted the scam, they have found it impossible to change anything because of pressure from the manufacturers and their home countries. The overall result: increased carbon emissions plus a lot of flimflam that ends up punishing consumers.
In place of cap-and-trade, Zabel and Williams argue for a straight carbon tax with 100 percent of revenues given back to consumers — although it’s hard to imagine Congress watching so much money pass under its nose without wetting its beak. The couple suggests starting the tax at a low level and raising it only as alternative technologies — including nuclear — are developed to substitute for coal. The same analysis has been promoted by many economists and Planet Gore contributor Steve Hayward, Kenneth Green, and Kevin Hassett of the American Enterprise Institute came up with essentially the same recommendation last year (PDF).
Needless to say, the EPA was not happy and immediately ordered the couple to take the video off their own website. But Steven Kirsch, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur who is touting novel approaches to climate change, put it back up on YouTube, where by this afternoon it had received 2,800 views. “The Huge Mistake” could eventually throw a log in front of the Waxman-Markey/Kerry-Boxer steamroller — although it may cost Zabel and Williams their jobs, as well.
– William Tucker is author of Terrestrial Energy: How Nuclear Power Will Lead the Green Revolution and End America’s Energy Odyssey.