Denis Hayes, president of the Bullitt Foundation in Seattle and a leading exponent of alternative and solar energy, has been celebrating the defeat of the Lieberman-Warner bill, which he calls "a 500 page cap-and-trade law filled with more holes than a Madonna dance outfit." Hayes is a Democrat, but it was mostly Republicans who ganged up to defeat the Senate measure.
Hayes makes his case in a compelling essay in Yale environmental website well worth checking frequently, Environment 360. Hayes wants to stress the cap portion of cap-and-trade, and he wants to drive down carbon where it enters the economy (coal mines, oil fields, ports), rather than trying to monitor the "sea of smokestacks" where it enters the atmosphere.
Along the way, Hayes makes other intriguing points. He worries about consensus building, including green enablers in the coalition, where "policies cannot significantly harm the core interests of any of the participants," and which produced the cap-and-trade consensus and its "genuinely terrible ideas." He favors auctioning off carbon permits, not giving them away, and using the money (a carbon tax, really) "to serve such climate-related public purposes as building the infrastructure needed for a national 'smart grid' for electricity and for high-speed electrified railroads, assuring large federal markets for the sunrise industries of the post-carbon economy, and...huge boosts in federal support for basic research."
Mostly, Hayes wants to avoid the baby steps and get on to building the post-carbon economy which, he says, "will require a more ambitious effort than the New Deal, the Interstate Highway System, and the Manhattan Project, all rolled into one." Such changes go right after the largest current energy sources, so the political opposition will be ferocious.
Bring it on, Hayes says. It's not that we've been making progress by our tiny increments: Since 1981, annual greenhouse gas emissions have grown from 4.7 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide to 5.9 billion metric tons. America imported 1.6 billion barrels of oil in 1981; by 2007 imports had ballooned to 3.7 billion barrels. Today, oil prices have surged past $130 per barrel, and the best evidence suggests that total global oil production is at or nearing its peak. Under President Carter, America dominated the world in renewable energy research, development, and commercialization, but in the ensuing decades our federal government has thrown away that lead.