McCain and Climate Change

by William Yeatman on March 28, 2008

McCain and Warming   [Iain Murray]

With the Presidential election looking closer than would have been thought possible a few months ago, it is worth examining just where Sen. McCain stands policywise on global warming at the moment.  An IBD article today looks at his position and how it leaves both sides of the debate cold.  The article quotes McCain's policy chief, Douglas Holtz-Eakin, who is a smart guy, as saying that a detailed proposal is months away, but it would contain two main elements: a cap n' trade plan and a Kyoto II that would include India and China.

The latter is, at the moment, politically infeasible if it includes mandatory reductions from those countries, while the former is either going to be an ineffective subsidy to energy companies that manages to increase prices to the consumer, as has been the case in Europe, or the equivalent of a disguised carbon tax, with significant penalties on the red states (as discussed earlier), depending on whether permits are allocated or auctioned.  Moreover, if you look at the last bill Sen. McCain proposed with Sen. Lieberman that included a cap n' trade element, it would have very little effect on climate, at high cost.  Marlo Lewis worked out that the bill would avert at most 0.03 degrees C warming by 2050, at a total cost to the economy of $776 billion.

Nevertheless, as my colleague Myron Ebell pointed out in the IBD article, a President McCain would have a very good chance of getting his proposal through Congress:

"The Republicans in Congress will not be able to oppose a President McCain. The leadership in both Houses will follow him," Ebell said. "If it is a President Obama or Clinton, Republicans will have every reason in the world to say, 'We're gonna fight this.'"

Finally, I think it's worth saying that, just as subsidies to oil companies should be opposed, McCain's proposal for a $3.7 billion subsidy to the nuclear industry is objectionable.  The nuclear industry would be better served by reducing the irrational regulatory barriers that prevent nuclear competing properly with coal, natural gas and other renewables rather than bribing it to put up with them.


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