I’m ready to be done with this election. I’m tired of seeing attack ads on the sides of highways, hearing damning reports on the radio and having a steam of slanderous video beamed into my living room. I’m certainly tired of hearing about the latest polls from Pennsylvania, Nevada or North Carolina. And I’m definitely tired of writing these long winded research intensive posts that have seemingly generated very little interest.
Do the candidates believe that climate change is occurring?
There can no longer be any doubt that human activities are influencing the global climate and we must react quickly and effectively.
We know that greenhouse gas emissions, by retaining heat within the atmosphere, threaten disastrous changes in the climate. The same fossil-fuels that power our economic engine also produced greenhouse gases that retain heat and thus threaten to alter the global climate….The facts of global warming demand our urgent attention, especially in Washington.
Okay great, glad we’re all on the same page here.
What actions will you take to address the situation?
To dramatically reduce carbon emissions, I will institute a new cap-and-trade system…
Specifically, I will implement a market-based cap-and-trade system to reduce carbon emissions…
Alright, everyone’s on the same page, this is going to be a short post! Both McCain and Obama state that their cap and trade program will reduce US emissions to 1990’s levels by 2020, and then to a cut 60% (McCain) or 80% (Obama) on current emissions by 2050. In essence the same thing.
McCain in his answer proposes a few additional steps:
- Increasing the penalty for not meeting CAFÉ standards. CAFÉ standards set the gas mileage standards for passenger vehicles in the United States. Senator McCain does not however indicate a desire to increase standards, which Senator Obama proposes to do.
- Senator McCain proposes to create a research and development tax credit to those businesses producing greenhouse gas friendly products.
- Senator McCain proposes a $300 million dollar prize for the creation of a battery to power hybrid-electric vehicles.
The Devil is in the details…
So Senators McCain and Obama have similar perspectives on global warming, similar goals and share a mechanism by which to address it. Both propose a cap and trade, but each would go about implementing their cap and trade in different ways.
First, let’s shed a bit of light on what a cap and trade is. A regulating body, in the form of a government sets a limit (cap) on the total amount of pollutants to be allowed. The total amount of pollutants is divided into small increments, otherwise called “credits,” and are distributed to those doing the polluting. If a polluter produces more pollution than it has credits for, it must purchase additional credits from a polluter who has not used all of theirs. Thus trading industry is developed, with fiscal incentives for companies to reduce the amount of pollution produced. The total cap is often reduced incrementally, so as to over time slowly reduce the total amount of pollution a nation is producing.
This concept is not new to the United States. There is a cap and trade system in place for sulphur and nitrogen oxides, a gas most commonly produced from coal burning.
There are two major variables in a cap and trade: the initial allocation of credits and at what level the “cap” is set. The candidates are more or less in agreement of the cap, that is to say they have a specific goal to be at by 2020. But how the candidates would initially distribute the carbon credits is different. Senator Obama would auction off carbon credits, whereas Senator McCain would give allotments to companies based on current emissions.
Both Senator Obama and Senator McCain are in agreement about climate change being the fault of mankind. Both Senators agree that US needs to take a leadership role. Senator McCain supports market based, Senator Obama supports federal regulations (mandates). Both would address the situation by implementing a cap and trade. There are slight differences in how the candidates would initially distribute their carbon credits. From what I read environmentalists tend to prefer Senator Obama’s cap and trade program, but both candidates get good marks from me for their desire to tackle climate change.
Another reference that might be interesting is grist.org’s candidates factsheets about the environment. Click here for Obama’s and here for McCain’s. Actually those factsheets cover pretty much everything we discussed over the past four posts but much more succinctly.
Oh well, next we’ll hear my endorsement for President, along with a few other races in the New York Metro Region.