Obama’s Energy and Environmental Team Completed

President-elect Obama has proven pragmatism and decisiveness with the completion of his and environmental team. He apparently understands the issues and is ready to lead.

His team includes:

Steven Chu, Secretary of Energy: Nobel physics laureate and head of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

Lisa Jackson, Administrator of the EPA: former commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection

Nancy Sutley, Chairman of White House Council on Environmental Quality: former energy advisor to California governor, Gray Davis

Carol M. Browner, Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change: former EPA administrator under Bill Clinton

Ken Salazar, Secretary of the Interior: Colorado Senator

Tom Vilsack, Secretary of Agriculture: former Iowa Governor

Obama’s first stated target is to reduce U.S. GHG emissions to the level of 1990 by 2020. This is an incredibly bold goal and the wheels need to be put in motion immediately. The first course of action is deciding on a carbon tax and/or cap-and-trade system.

The carbon tax is favored obviously because it lends predictability to energy prices, whereas the cap-and-trade system tends to be more volatile and discourages investment in carbon-free technologies (clean coal, energy efficiency, renewable energy).

The way cap-and trade works is the government sets a cap or limit on the amount of pollution that can be emitted. Companies are then issued a set number of emission allowances/permits, with which they trade amongst each other based on the amount of pollution they need to emit for operations. This system obviously rewards the seller for limiting emissions and punishes the buyer for needing to emit more. If the monitoring and enforcement of this system is sound and the ‘cap’ limit and initial allocation of allowances is determined using an appropriate process such as grandfathering provision based on historical emissions, then the cap-and-trade system can actually be more effective than a carbon tax by creating a marketplace of competition to solve the issue. However, the stipulations and costs to enforce this system may be too great, not to mention the potential corruption the system tends to encourage.

The carbon tax might be the simplest, most straightforward way to address emissions. The tax revenues would not only offset other taxes, be used to fund environmental projects, and give incentives for investment, but could also be allocated to start paying off the insane amount of debt that the US has racked up this year trying to prevent our economic collapse!

Whatever course of action we take, I’ve got faith Obama, Chu, and gang will figure it out.

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Posted in Energy, Environment, News, Sustainable | 2 Comments »

  • Greg
  • Greg