The Collin Peterson Climate Change Compromise

More

So it looks like the Waxman-Markey climate change bill will pass in the House this week: The sponsors hammered out an agreement last night with Collin Peterson, the chair of the Agriculture Committee. The main sticking point was over whether the EPA or the Department of Agriculture would administer a carbon offset program intended for farmers. (The offset program will pay farmers to do environmentally friendly things like plant trees.) Peterson got his way: The (more sympathetic) Department of Agriculture will do the work.

I don't have a whole lot to say about the compromise -- the bill now weighs in at a morbidly obese 1,201 pages, and much like every member of Congress I sure haven't read it -- except that I can feel my enthusiasm for the whole project slipping away. In the ideal world we'd want a carbon tax, with the revenue used to fund a payroll tax cut. In the campaign world we were promised a cap and trade bill with 100% of the emission permits auctioned off. In the real world we were offered a cap and trade bill with some portion of the permits auctioned off and some portion of the permits handed out to please various important constituencies who would otherwise scuttle the effort. And in the world of Collin Peterson we will also have a special offset program for agricultural interests.

I know that politics is the art of the possible and we must cling tightly to our copies of Machiavelli and blah blah blah. Whether an imperfect bill is better than no bill at all is a question we will all have fun answering in hindsight. But I don't see any reason not to point out that bill is imperfect, and I don't totally understand why so few people are doing that. A friend mentioned that Barack Obama got exactly zero questions about energy or the environment during yesterday's presser, despite mentioning the bill in his opening comments. Maybe ignoring the bill is better than swallowing it?

Jump to comments
Presented by

Derek Thompson is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where he writes about economics, labor markets, and the entertainment business.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

A Technicolor Time-Lapse of Alaska's Northern Lights

The beauty of aurora borealis, as seen from America's last frontier


Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

A Time-Lapse of Alaska's Northern Lights

The beauty of aurora borealis, as seen from America's last frontier

Video

What Do You Wish You Learned in College?

Ivy League academics reveal their undergrad regrets

Video

Famous Movies, Reimagined

From Apocalypse Now to The Lord of the Rings, this clever video puts a new spin on Hollywood's greatest hits.

Video

What Is a City?

Cities are like nothing else on Earth.

Video

CrossFit Versus Yoga: Choose a Side

How a workout becomes a social identity

Video

In Online Dating, Everyone's a Little Bit Racist

The co-founder of OKCupid shares findings from his analysis of millions of users' data.

Writers

Up
Down

More in Business

Just In