Eric de Place

Eric de Place is a senior researcher at Sightline Institute, a Seattle-based sustainability think tank.

How carbon markets work in Europe

In spite of what you may have heard, Europe’s carbon market is working beautifully. The E.U.’s Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) has been operational since 2005 and we’re now getting a good look at how it functions. It turns out, it’s a remarkable success story, both environmentally and economically. Let’s briefly review the major pieces of evidence. 1. European Environment Agency. A November 2009 report finds that the continent is well on its way to meeting its Kyoto targets thanks in large part to its cap-and-trade program. In fact, by 2007, 14 countries had already exceeded their reduction goals, including the wealthy industrial giants …

Listen and learn

How carbon markets work in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative

With all the hand-wringing over the alleged risk of market manipulation in cap-and-trade, you’d almost forget that the United States already has a carbon cap-and-trade program up and running. But it does. The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a regional program among 10 Northeast states, has been auctioning permits, allowing trading on a secondary market, and even, in a way, encouraging trading in derivatives. And guess what’s happened so far? … we find no evidence of anticompetitive conduct. Participation by a large number of firms is an encouraging sign of competitiveness and efficiency in the secondary market. That’s according to a May 2009 report …

‘Subprime carbon': Risk or hype?

On the announcement that the Clean Energy Jobs (CEJ) bill cleared a key Senate committee last week, Friends of the Earth complained: The bill’s backbone is a poorly regulated carbon trading scheme that entrusts the Wall Street bankers who brought us the current economic crisis with the responsibility to solve global warming. Sheesh. Of course, this isn’t true. It’s not even sort of true. It’s just an attempt to torpedo a bill by sowing confusion about an important and sensitive issue. (There are some legitimate critiques of the bill — and Friends of the Earth (FoE) makes some of them …

Don't worry, be happy

Gaming cap-and-trade: Should we worry?

Worries about “gaming” or market manipulation sometimes crop up as an objection to cap-and-trade, often with reference to recent shenanigans in the financial markets. Some fear that a cap-and-trade system could be manipulated to artificially raise — or lower — permit prices to generate profits for a few at the expense of consumers. While distrust and concerns about scamming a carbon market are understandable, they’re not warranted. To put some of these fears to rest, it’s informative to look at existing cap-and-trade programs. Neither of the two programs regulating greenhouse gases nor a third controlling acid rain pollutants has been …

Paul Krugman Versus Matt Taibbi

I love reading Matt Taibbi. I mean, who else puts together a sentence like this?: The world’s most powerful investment bank is a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money. Funny and righteous at the same time. Good stuff. But in a piece he wrote for Rolling Stone this past July, he made some awfully curious — and curiously unsupported — allegations about carbon markets: …if the Democratic Party that [Goldman-Sachs] gave $4,452,585 to in the last election manages to push into existence a groundbreaking new commodities bubble, disguised …

Have Cap-and-Trade Programs Been

I’ve got an emerging obsession: the risk of market manipulation in cap and trade programs. It’s something you hear about all the time, at least in carbon policy circles, but the details about “gaming” always seem to be in very short supply. Still, it’s something we should take a close look at because the alleged consequences are so severe. So at the moment, I’m gearing up to read everything important that’s been written on the subject. (If you know of good stuff, please send it my way.) In the meantime, I want to share this recent short brief written by economist Laurence DeWitt at Pace …

If Thoreau had been on the Internet

The future of storytelling?

Recently, I had the good fortune to encounter some folks who may well be the next generation of great environmental storytellers: Benjamin Drummond and Sara Joy Steele. They’re producing short multimedia pieces that are just riveting. My favorite is a five minute story about the ways that climate change is affecting reindeer herders in Norway, but there are other gems too that are closer to home: snow-making at Snoqualmie Pass in Washington, fire-fighting in the Cascade Mountains, and sustainable job-training in a Puget Sound prison. It’s not as if Drummond and Steele invented multimedia — in fact, high-quality multimedia is getting cheaper and easier to produce all …

Free Market Parking From Canada

My cries have been answered. In Canada, at least, there is such a thing as a free market think tank with a free market perspective on parking policy. The Winnipeg-based Frontier Centre for Public Policy recently published a concise little position paper, “How Free Is Your Parking?” by Stuart Donovan. It makes three points, briefly: 1. Parking regulations suppress economic activity: Parking regulations suppress economic activity in a number of ways. Most importantly parking regulations tie up large areas of urban land and reduce the space available for other, potentially more-productive, uses… The Toronto Parking Authority estimates the costs for constructing parking in the …

Kerry-Boxer Climate Bill: Preliminary Thoughts

*** This is a preliminary summary of a huge bill, so it’s not Sightline’s final answer. Look for a more thorough and polished analysis next week. *** Weighing in at 821 pages, the Kerry-Boxer climate bill introduced into the US Senate yesterday is officially a whopper, though it’s certainly more svelte than the companion House bill that it substantially mirrors. (Apparently, it’s Kerry-Boxer, not Boxer-Kerry, despite what you may have heard.) Update, 1:20: quick aside on the price ceiling: Lots of folks asking what I think about the “price collar” approach in this bill, especially the price ceiling that appears to be a …

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