John, I share your horror at the handiwork of our House of Representatives. This piece from the Wall Street Journal is a helpful explanation of just how convoluted and unworkable is the “offset” scheme, which was included in cap-and-trade in order to round up the needed votes. It turns out there are a couple of huge issues:
One is political: Democrats are promoting the climate bill as a way to drive a “clean energy transformation” that creates lots of new “green jobs” in the U.S. Another problem is practical. As the Government Accountability Office said in a study last December, it is nearly impossible to ensure that international offset projects reduce greenhouse gases more than would have happened without subsidies. The agency said its own review of Europe’s use of offsets found that such projects had an uncertain effect on carbon emissions.
So it may not work and we’ll have damaged our own economy on the false promise of getting new jobs here in the U.S. Plus, as John pointed out, it has anti-free trade provisions. This sounds suspiciously like the stimulus plan — a giant government boondoggle that promises jobs but has nothing to offer the private sector.
Many suspect that the bill will die in the Senate where only a few defections on the Democratic side (from Evan Bayh perhaps who is up for re-election in 2010?) can stop it in its tracks. Even if it fails it may long be remembered as a mind-numbingly misguided effort to wreak havoc on an already faltering economy. (Think Smoot-Hawley.) Never before have we seen such a hugely complicated piece of legislation that portends to do so much but whose benefits are so ephemeral. The fact that it was cobbled together at 3 am with only stage directions for assembly only adds to its luster as possibly the worst piece of legislation in American history.