Letting polluters off the hook
MARK HERTSGAARD: Unlike lead or asbestos, we can't just ban greenhouse gases. That would shut down America's factories and vehicles overnight. But if we put the right price on greenhouse gases, especially carbon dioxide, we'll use less of them.
The easiest way to do that is a carbon tax. That would increase the prices of gasoline, electricity and other fuels. But we could cut payroll taxes to offset any harm to the poor or the larger economy.
Most proposals in Congress, however, favor supposedly putting the market in charge. Under the so-called cap-and-trade system, the right to emit carbon would become a commodity.
The government would issue carbon emissions permits. Big polluters could buy the right to pollute from companies that haven't used up their permitted pollution levels.
We'd reduce the permits over time, giving companies an incentive: the less carbon they emit, the more money they could make by selling their unused quota to someone else.
The trouble is, Congress seems inclined to give these emission permits away for free, rather than have companies buy them at auction in an open market. Most global warming bills contain grandfather clauses that give companies free permits for up to 90 percent of their current emissions.
Friday, May 12, 2006
Carbon credits have some hot air
Many of the European Union's companies are registering carbon dioxide emissions far below their limits. And that's wreaking some havoc with the market set up to buy and sell carbon credits. Stephen Beard explains.
There's money to be made in the effort to halt global warming. One burgeoning business is the buying and selling of "carbon offsets" to American industry and consumers. What are these offset projects and how good are their claims? Claire Schoen reports.
The Show Me state is spending half a billion dollars to rebuild a 10-mile stretch of I-64 in the heart of St. Louis. The project's so big it's causing some businesses to take their own detours. Tom Weber reports.
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