Kerry-Graham-Lieberman: The Tax Formerly Known As Cap-and-Trade

My colleague Julie Walsh flags a funny statement by Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT), quoted earlier this week (Mar. 9) in Greenwire (subscription required). Although Lieberman, Sen. John Kerry (D-MA), and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) want to include cap-and-trade in their draft climate and energy legislation, they are reluctant to use the term.

Greenwire reports:

Lieberman also downplayed the use of the term “cap and trade” when it comes to limiting emissions, even though that is generally the plan with their bill. “We don’t use that term anymore,” he said. “We’ll have pollution reduction targets. Remember the Artist Previously Known as Prince?”

According to earlier reports, Graham et al. may propose to combine an electric utility sector cap-and-trade program with carbon taxes on transportation fuels. If so, then Kyotoism is truly dead. Electric utilities are gung-ho for cap-and-trade only if it’s economy-wide, so they can sell the free emission permits they would get under a bill like Waxman-Markey to other sectors receiving fewer or zero freebies.

Also, Waxman-Markey is a non-starter in the Senate because millions of Americans now understand that cap-and-trade is a stealth tax on energy. Combining carbon taxes with cap-and-trade is hardly the bold alternative and fresh start Graham, Kerry, and Lieberman are promising. Indeed, if this is what’s on offer, it’s even more obviously a tax, and should be even easier to shoot down!

The Artist Formerly Known As Prince was still Prince even before he changed his name back to Prince! And an energy tax by any other name is just as foul.