In the 1990s cap-and-trade—the idea of reducing carbon-dioxide emissions by auctioning off a set number of pollution permits, which could then be traded in a market—was the darling of the green policy circuit. A similar approach to sulphur dioxide emissions, introduced under the 1990 Clean Air Act, was credited with having helped solve acid-rain problems quickly and cheaply. And its great advantage was that it hardly looked like a tax at all, though it would bring in a lot of money.
The cap-and-trade provision expected in the climate legislation that Senators John Kerry, Joe Lieberman and Lindsey Graham have been working on, which may be unveiled shortly, will be a poor shadow of that once alluring idea. Cap-and-trade will not be the centrepiece of the legislation (as it was of last year’s House climate bill, Waxman-Markey), but is instead likely to apply only to electrical utilities, at least for the time being. Transport fuels will probably be approached with some sort of tax or fee; industrial emissions will be tackled with regulation and possibly, later on, carbon trading. The hope will be to cobble together cuts in emissions similar in scope to those foreseen under the House bill, in which the vast majority of domestic cuts in emissions came from utilities. Read the whole story here