The House passed a bill, now to go to the Senate, to purify the climate. Its prime mechanism will be to require companies to buy pollution allowances from companies that don’t pollute as much as they are allowed to.
The House narrowly passed an ambitious climate bill yesterday that would establish national limits on greenhouse gases, create a complex trading system for emission permits and provide incentives to alter how individuals and corporations use energy.
The bill passed 219 to 212 after a furious lobbying push by the White House and party leaders won over farm-state Democrats who had complained that it was too costly, and liberals who wondered if it was too watered down to work. Even after that effort, 44 Democrats voted against the legislation.
The bill, if it became law, would lead to vast changes in the ways energy is made, sold and used in the United States — putting new costs over time on electricity from fossil fuels and directing new billions to “clean” power from sources such as the wind and the sun.
It would require U.S. emissions to decline 17 percent by 2020. To make that happen, the bill would create an economy that trades in greenhouse gases. Polluters would be required to buy “credits” to cover their emissions; Midwestern farmers, among others, could sell “offsets” for things they didn’t emit; and Wall Street could turn those commodities into a new market.
“Create an economy”! Pollution credits bought and sold on Wall Street! This sounds like a free market solution, but is it?
And if carbon dioxide is counted as a harmful “emission,” does that mean we will have to pay somebody every time we exhale?