Planet Gore

Spin City

I’m on the road to give some testimony in a bit but this story from E&E News Daily, “Carbon tax advocates make their case with warnings of cap-and-trade chaos” (subscription required), contained enough labored euphemism — read: really bad spin — that it cried out for a minor fisking:

“Despite the carbon tax talk, cap-and-trade advocates have the upper hand when it comes to a show down with the carbon tax.

To start with, there is the environmental certainty that comes with a cap-and-trade law. While a tax may be better at forcing companies and individuals to change their behaviors, it cannot guarantee that heat-trapping emissions will fall to any specific level. That is a criteria environmentalists insist must be the main factor when establishing targets for a new U.S. climate policy.

‘Setting a tax is a guessing game,’ said Tony Kreindler, a spokesman at the Environmental Defense Fund, which supports cap-and-trade legislation. ‘If you guess wrong, you’re going to have a lot more trouble solving the problem.’”

Verdict? Four-and-a-half Pinocchios.

Regarding the claim that at least cap-and-trade provides certainty of emissions, as opposed to a tax providing mere certainty of cost — certainty of cost being helpful to the regulated community, if dangerous to policymakers — I am willing to bet that no one making that claim is willing to bet what Europe’s emissions will be next year.

The reason is that cap-and-trade provides no such thing. That claim is unsupportable. All you can control is the number of ration coupons you print. These guys just know they lose if they propose the tax. Their only hope, as I have noted, is for others to do so, mainstreaming the requisite “we must act!” panic and creating the path for their “I’ll protect you!” talk of “market mechanisms” to suddenly seem reasonable when on its face, it is otherwise a non-starter. But they don’t respond too well to even that, I am heartened to see (below).

Curious but, Europe’s promises of emissions have proven wrong — and even in the wrong direction — each of the three years they have had cap-and-trade. Of course, they adopted it instead of the tax on this very same excuse.

Next up, “spot the substance” in these deflections of the less painful tax (hint, there isn’t any, but it surely is illuminating. Now, back to my question about why you think you can buy peace with these people):

“Some cap-and-trade proponents say they are dubious about the recent push for a carbon tax, especially when it comes from longtime skeptics on the global warming issue. Exxon, for example, has been a longtime financial sponsor of outside organizations that challenged the science on climate change.

‘We do hear a lot of people who are not big fans of climate action talking about a carbon tax,’ said Manik Roy, director of congressional affairs at the Pew Center on Global Climate Change. ‘It’s hard to escape the feeling they’re doing that because they’re trying to delay climate action in general.’”

That obsession with ad hominem over substance can really get in the way, fellas. And then there is this:

“The Btu tax, as it was known, made it narrowly through the Democrat-controlled House but ran into trouble in the Senate. Well-financed opponents from the National Association of Manufacturers and others helped to kill the measure.”

That’s another way of (not) saying that it was the Democrat-controlled Senate, with the specific emissaries of David Boren, Bennett Johnston, and John Breaux, that strolled down Pennsylvania Avenue to inform Clinton-Gore that this was not going to happen on their watch (Boren joining with those right-wing firebrands John Danforth and William Cohen to kill it in the Finance Committee). There, was that so hard? Or would that simply pin ultimate responsibility for the mess on the rightful parties?

C’mon, gang, even the world’s noisiest blamer-of-others failed to mention NAM’s role and, I must say, Al Gore doesn’t pass up many chances — real or imagined — to blame well-funded interests for not letting him get his way. (In a November 4-5, 2006, interview with the Financial Times, Gore acknowledged “‘I worked as vice president to enact a carbon tax. Clinton indulged me against the advice of his economic team. . . . One House of Congress passed it, the other defeated it by one vote then watered it down, and what remained was a pitiful 5 cent per gallon gasoline tax.’ Even that turned out too much for some: ‘That contributed to our losing Congress two years later to Newt Gingrich.’ ”) Maybe the part about NAM doing the rest got cut for reasons of space.

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