If all permits are auctioned, where is the need for large-scale trading? With modern electronics, there is no reason most permits can’t be bought directly by those using them.

Yes, there will be some trading: people will buy too many and need to resell, or engage in hedging, or use a broker for convenience’s sake. But if the auctioning process is not made a major pain, these should be trivial in scale compared to direct purchase. Our short name should not emphasize the role of trade.

Why is the terminology important? If you refer to support for 100 percent auctioning as a variation on cap-and-trade, you make political judo easy for giveaway advocates. They can take all the political effort that was put into building support for 100 percent auctioning and use it to win support for giving free permits to large corporations. After all, it is all cap-and-trade, the giveaway advocates will say. Only extremists, the gifts-for-Big-Coal supporters will say, would make a fuss about the exact form cap-and-trade takes. Seriously, brand differentiation is important in politics. If you think 100 percent auctioning is important, don’t use a term that lets your opponents pretend there is little daylight between you and them.

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.

Reader support helps sustain our work. Donate today to keep our climate news free. All donations DOUBLED!