Archive for May 15th, 2009|Daily archive page

Moderate Dems Selling Out The Poor on Climate Change

Here is a Matthew Yglesias post from earlier this week discussing carbon auctions and the compromises being made to pass the cap and trade bill

But let me take some time out to express outrage about one aspect of the change that doesn’t really have a huge environmental impact, the decision to give away the carbon permits to utilities. The conservative bloc on climate/energy issues has a clear position. They think emissions should go up and up and the earth should get hotter and hotter and we’ll just kind of cross our fingers. The moderate bloc, by contrast, has portrayed itself as concerned with the climate crisis but worried about the tradeoffs with short-term economic growth. But the concession they’ve forced here doesn’t do anything to boost short-term growth. Instead, whereas auctioning the permits would have made rich people bear most of the cost of reducing emissions, by giving the permits away you make poor people bear most of the cost.

The environmental impact of the two methods is similar, and the overall costs are similar. But the moderates acted swiftly and decisively to reallocate a portion of the costs onto the backs of the poor. And they’ve done so specifically under guise of looking out for the interests of the working class. They ought to be ashamed of themselves.

This is absolutely correct. It’s why we’re working on this issue.

Emitting carbon into the atmosphere has a lot of negative consequences, but not everybody will feel those consequences and certainly not right away. Every argument about climate change is all about which groups will pay. The core argument about climate change, whether to limit carbon dioxide emission at all, is really between people that benefit from the continued expansion of dirty energy sources and future generations that will have fewer resources as a result of climate change.

Indeed, all of the sub issues within climate change have a similar trade-off. Lower the carbon emissions reductions for 2020? Then you’re favoring people living in 2009-2020 at the expense of people living in 2021-2030 and beyond. What’s the trade-off for carbon auctions? Exempting polluting companies from carbon auctions helps only those companies and it does so on the backs of consumers.

Why should polluting companies pay to pollute, and consumers get relief? Because polluting companies have already benefited from creating pollution for their entire existence. They pursued a business model and political lobbying strategy that has brought us to the brink of global calamity and now they think it’s more important that they can continue profiting at high rates, than that millions of Americans get relief when their heating, groceries, and gas bills go up.

It’s a despicable position, and yet it’s the position of “moderation” as documented by Bronwyn. It’s a position that will cost the poorest Americans a substantial share of their income and potentially undermine the viability of the Democratic party because it negatively affects so many lives.

We’re working on developing allies in this fight, but we always need more friends. Join us.