NYT gets goofy on cap-and-trade
An NYT piece on Obama’s priorities manages to get two things wrong on energy policy, both in a short section written by John Broder.
First, the overall point is wrong. Broder tries to draw a contrast between "an earlier proposal," Obama’s cap-and-trade program, and what Obama is "now emphasizing," big investments in renewables, energy efficiency, and fuel efficient cars. The implication is that Obama has shifted his position, possibly even abandoned cap-and-trade.
Neither is true. Aside from the week he introduced it, Obama has never foregrounded cap-and-trade. He’s been running at a time of rising energy prices, so he prudently elected to lead with his stimulus measures. That’s been true for most of the race, certainly all of the general election. But cap-and-trade has always been a part of the program, and it remains so — see the most current representation of his plan, at change.gov.
Second, Broder says the cap-and-trade program will "drive up the cost of energy for everyone." Everyone? Really? I happen to think the possible macroeconomic costs of cap-and-trade are wildly exaggerated, but I’m not sure I’ve ever heard anyone say it would raise the energy costs for literally everyone. What about ratepayers in regions supplied primarily by hydropower (like Grist, up here in Seattle) or nuclear? What about customers of utilities that have aggressive energy efficiency programs? What about commuters living in areas with effective public transit?
The effects will be felt differently in different regions and industries and socioeconomic demographics, but the U.S. economy as a whole is pretty dynamic. Energy prices go up, people invest in measures to help them use less, or measures to create cheaper energy. This notion that restricting carbon will act as some sort of uniform, inexorable, inescapable tax is goofy. For just about everyone in the country, for the cost rising prices would impose on them, the same amount of investment in efficiency would lower net costs. Our energy use is not a fixed variable.