Wednesday, July 1, 2009

US House Passes Cap and Trade Bill

Just last week the US congress passed through the American Clean Energy and Security Act, with 219 people (211of whom where democrats) voting for the act and 212 (168 of whom where republican) voted against the bill. The Bill, does many things- from increasing funding for "green energy developments", the expansion of "weatherization programs, and most controversially the implementation of a "cap-and-trade program." Not surprisingly the majority of Republicans and business groups are opposed to the law while most liberals support it. The liberal left will tell you that Cap and trade is a good first step towards substantive climate change. This sort of incrementalism, which is the mantra of the liberal left is meant to be a "first step" towards a more comprehensive climate policy and I mean, honestly, isn't something (no matter how small and inconsequential) better than nothing? Of course, left support for the law is not universal- for one GreenPeace has come about against the bill, as they rightly see Cap and Trade as a "false solution" to climate change.

So what is wrong with Cap and Trade? Why should we as environmentalist, revolutionary ones at that, be opposed to such legislation?

Of course, the cap-and-trade program that the US congress is pushing for will do little, if anything, to address the impending climate crisis. At its best cap-and-trade will be nothing more than accounting magic- having no impact on limiting real carbon emission but making the world a better place on paper. In fact this might be the intended goal of cap-and-trade. Like most "market mechanism" attempts at policy, cap-and-trade intends to provide capitalist an incentive to cut carbon emissions efficiently and effectively while not "harming" the economy in any measurable way (unlike what Republican's claim- the odds are Cap and Trade will make a few people really rich, and have little impact on "consumers."). This of course does nothing to address the root sources of climate change- over consumption, dependence on cheap fossil fuels, and rampant global inequalities, i.e.., capitalism. In fact, instead of undermining capitalism, over consumption, etc, cap-and-trade commodifies the carbon emissions, making just another way for capitalists to profit from the destruction of the earth.

Instead of Cap-and-trade, what we need is a real climate proposal one that doesn't cut C02 by 5% in 10 years, if at all, but one that really does cut c02 by 80% by 2050. Anything less than that will be meaningless, and of course the longer we wait the more we have to cut immediately. Anything less than this will do nothing more than remove short-term liberal guilt about consumption and increase governmental control over the economy and regulation on every day life.

As anarchist's we need to really think through our politics and try to foment a way to address climate change, cut c02 but also weaken the power of the state. Right now all 'solutions" to climate change require the expansion of federal government power and the extension of world governmental authority. This is one of the critiques of the policy by "conservatives' (ala Glenn Beck) but their critique has more to do with regulation of the economic sphere, but they do have a point. Expanding the federal governments power to regulate the economy, might be a worthwhile goal to some, but as anarchists we need to be suspicious. Can we expand governmental powers in the name of confronting climate change? Is there a way to push the state towards its end by expanding its power?

The issue is expressed rather well in The Coming Insurrection. The anonomous author(s) write:
"Managing the phasing out of nuclear power, excess C02 in the atmosphere, melting glaciers, hurricanes, epidemics, global overpopulation, erosion of the soil, mass extinction of living species...this will be our burden. They tell us, "everyone must do their part," if we want to save our beautiful model of civilization. We have to consumer less to be able to keep consuming. We have to produce organically to keep producing. We have to control ourselves to go on controlling. This is the logic of a world straining to maintain itself while giving itself an air of historical rupture. This is how they would like to convince us to partipate in the great industrial challenges of this century. (pg. 78)"

1 comment:

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