Sunday, March 29, 2009

China Syndrome

My Congress Critter, Jim Cooper, and Rep. Lloyd Doggett of Texas have concocted a new carbon cap-and-trade scheme called The Safe Markets Development Act:
 The Safe Markets Development Act provides an innovative auction mechanism for cap-and-trade legislation that guarantees science-based reductions of carbon pollution while ensuring market stability.  The bill would rely upon an independent Board to determine the annual allowance prices necessary to meet emissions targets from 2012 to 2020. The U.S. Treasury Department would conduct quarterly allowance auctions designed to maintain prices determined by the Board. The Board must conduct an annual review of its success in meeting the emissions goals and adjust the forecasted prices to ensure we stay on track to meet the 2020 emissions goal.

Let me be the first to say: huh?

Here’s a thought: how about instead of all of this cap-and-trade crap, we just resolve to cut greenhouse gas emissions across the board? I know, that would be far too easy. I just don’t understand all of this cap-and-trade sleight of hand. It seems like the more complicated we make it, the easier it will be for corporations to avoid cutting their carbon emissions.

A couple of weeks ago, China's Department of Climate Change said countries that import goods made in polluting Chinese factories are responsible for China’s pollution:

Beijing argues that rich nations buying Chinese goods bear responsibility for the estimated 15-25% of China's carbon emissions that are created by its production of exports.

He argued that it was unfair to put the highest burden on China.

"We are at the low end of the production line for the global economy," he said.

"We produce products and these products are consumed by other countries, especially the developed countries. This share of emissions should be taken by the consumers but not the producers," he said.

So, it’s all our fault that China pollutes its corner of the globe? I don’t think so.

Here’s an idea. If the Chinese don’t want to manufacture goods without poisoning their air, water and soil, there are a lot of shuttered American factories that would love to show those folks how it’s done.

Folks like these companies.

Is this protectionism? Maybe. I never understood why a little protectionism is supposed to be such a bad thing. What’s wrong with protecting jobs in America? Maybe if we’d been more worried about protecting American jobs these past 10 years, and less worried about protecting the profit margin of multinational corporations, we wouldn’t be in this huge mess right now.

This Geography of Recession map is startling. Perry County, TN, has 27.3% unemployment; there’s 18.6% in Lauderdale County. Multinational corporations paid no price for shuttering their American factories in communities like these, shipping production to China, and taking advantage of China’s lax environmental, workplace, and human rights standards.

Free marketers say this is why environmental laws and unions are a bad thing for American manufacturing. I say, hell no. The solution is not for America to become more like China, where workers are treated like slaves and factories pollute with impunity. We’ve already been down that road and learned those lessons.

China needs to get a clue. I have no problem with the idea of a "pollution tax" on imported goods. If China doesn't like it, they can stop polluting at their factories. If they can't do it, or are unwilling to do it, then we can manufacture those goods right here and show them how. As the price of oil rises, we'll be doing more of it closer to home anyway.

Does this mean prices will go up? Sure it does. But you're going to pay anyway, one way or the other. You'll pay with unpredictable weather, flooding, drought, pollution-related health issues, etc. Or you can pay a little more for piece of furniture or a T-shirt.

Seems like a no-brainer to me.