It's A Trap!
Yesterday, Al Gore testified on Capitol Hill about the climate crisis. Even though it was COLD! In January! I don't know how he worked up the courage to show his face.
Anyway, here's some of what he had to say.
We have arrived at a moment of decision. Our home - Earth - is in grave danger. What is at risk of being destroyed is not the planet itself, of course, but the conditions that have made it hospitable for human beings [...]
We're borrowing money from China to buy oil from the Persian Gulf to burn it in ways that destroy the planet. Every bit of that's got to change.
For years our efforts to address the growing climate crisis have been undermined by the idea that we must choose between our planet and our way of life; between our moral duty and our economic well being. These are false choices. In fact, the solutions to the climate crisis are the very same solutions that will address our economic and national security crises as well.
In order to repower our economy, restore American economic and moral leadership in the world and regain control of our destiny, we must take bold action now.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. There's ICE outside, Grandpa!
OK, wingnut cloak off. So Elena Schor was interested by Bob Corker's apparent desire for a carbon tax:
I want to tell you that I wish we would just talk about a carbon tax, 100 percent of which would be returned to the American people. So there's no net dollars that would come out of the American people's pockets.
Gore agreed with Corker. But this is a scheme to slow down progress on the climate, a divide and conquer strategy. Dave Roberts explains.
The 111th U.S. Congress is not going to pass a carbon tax. Calls for a carbon tax, to the extent they have any effect, will complicate and possibly derail passage of carbon legislation.
It's possible that a carbon tax (and/or cap-and-dividend) bill will be introduced. One or both might even make it to a full vote, though I doubt it. But they won't pass. If you want carbon pricing out of this Congress, cap-and-trade is what you're getting. It follows that your energies are best spent ensuring that cap-and-trade legislation is as strong as possible [...]
Through some process I find truly mysterious, the carbon tax has become a kind of totem of authenticity among progressives, while cap-and-trade now symbolizes corporate sellouthood [...] It doesn't seem to daunt these folks that their hostility toward cap-and-trade and support for carbon taxes has been taken up by a growing cadre on the far right, including Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson, economist Arthur Laffer, Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), and yes, even climate wingnut Sen. James Inhofe (R-Gamma Quadrant). Hell, throw in a refunded gas tax and you get America's Worst Columnist© Charles Krauthammer too. Are we to believe that these folks understand the threat of climate chaos, want to reduce climate emissions the amount science indicates is prudent, and sincerely believe that a carbon tax is the best way to accomplish that goal?
Perhaps, if we slept through the last decade, we might believe that. Having been awake (and watching in horror), we understand that it's a poison pill. It's a way to avoid legislation at all if possible and secure the weakest possible bill if not. It's a way to exploit disagreements within the climate coalition and derail momentum. That's what they do. As usual, they're fighting a knife fight and the left is holding a grad school seminar.
Now, Roberts strongly favors cap and trade, so take that with a grain of salt. But he's not wrong and we've seen this movie before. Hell, John Dingell proposed this a couple years ago, taunting environmentalists that he was doing so "just to sort of see how people really feel about this.” One goal is to associate mitigating climate change with a tax, and making sure the conservative base knows that's the only way any progress can be made (even though in one iteration, that tax would be paid by carbon producers and refunded to the people). Another is simply to drive a wedge on the left to blunt consensus.
Whether it's a carbon tax or cap and trade, the environmental movement should pick a side and go with it. They're going to need to be unified against near-universal Republican opposition. Kevin Drum has more.