An old cartoon showed a customer sampling from a jar whose label is emblazoned with the words “New and Improved.” The customer asks what has changed and is told the company changed the label so that it now says “New and Improved.” This seems to be the idea behind the Natural Resources Defense Council’s (NRDC) new plan for carbon dioxide emissions.
The NRDC’s proposal is nothing but a warmed-over version of a proposed federal clean energy standard, which was itself nothing but a five-eighths-scale version of cap and trade. In the NRDC’s plan, all of the allowance revenue (equivalent to carbon tax revenue) is given to the power companies or the states, which could be a huge amount of money transferred to utilities and their holding companies. There would also be the permit-trading profits that so excite Wall Street.
It should be noted that without any governmentally imposed plan, America is nearly halfway to the NRDC’s target of 26 percent lower emissions than in 2005. This significant reduction is due, in large part, to the revolution in natural gas production brought on by hydraulic fracturing (or “fracking”)—something the NRDC is trying to stop. So in their plan, they pretend that natural gas is one tool to bring down emissions when, at the same time, they are opposing the technology that would produce the gas.
(Suggestion: Go to NRDC.org and enter “fracking” into the search window. See if you find anything supporting it.)
Though the NRDC’s focus is supposedly on reducing CO2 emissions, its own evaluation of the plan shows a reduction in carbon-free nuclear power generation. Reducing nuclear power production as a response to restrictions on CO2 does not show up in other analyses and is a bit odd. Perhaps it should not be surprising given that the NRDC seems to like nuclear power even less than it does hydraulic fracturing.
Finally, the NRDC plan will do virtually nothing to moderate global warming—even if you believe the high-end sensitivity estimates of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
The NRDC sets a target reduction of less than 700,000 metric tons of CO2 by 2025. In 2011 alone, China’s CO2 emissions rose by more than this 12-year reduction target established by NRDC. That is, the NRDC goal for 12 years worth of reductions in the U.S. will be more than offset with one year’s worth of increases in one developing country.
It’s another all-pain-no-gain carbon policy.