Barack Obama released his global warming and energy plan today, and my key climate change cronies like it. Brian Beutler says:

It's extremely good. Exceptional in some places, slightly nebulous in others, perfectly in line with expectations in yet more, but perfectly in line what we should expect from good public servants at this point, and certainly more than I expected from Obama.



And Dave Roberts:

Overall, I'm pleasantly surprised -- even shocked -- at its quality. It's a deft mix of good politics and strong, substantive policy.



The basic framework is a cap-and-trade system wherein the emissions credits are sold by the government rather than given away (à la Joe Lieberman's plan). I've come to the view that this is actually preferable to a carbon tax on substance since it asks bureaucrats to perform the hard-but-doable task of setting an appropriate carbon goal and then letting the market sort out what implicit price that sets on carbon emissions rather than the so-hard-it-might-be-impossible task of guestimating what price will get emissions under control.

The revenue thereby raised -- and it promises to be a lot of money -- would be spent on a bunch of stuff aimed at easing the transition to a less carbony economy. To wit:

Some of the revenue generated by auctioning allowances will be used to support the development and deployment of clean energy, invest in energy efficiency improvements and address transition costs, including helping American workers affected by this economic transition and helping lower-income Americans afford their energy bills by expanding the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, expanding weatherization grants for low-income individuals to make their homes more energy efficient, and establishing a dedicated fund to assist low-income Americans afford higher electricity and energy bills.



Then there's a bunch of stuff about efficiency that I don't really understand, but which other people seem to think is good. It does seem to me, though, that Ryan Avent is right that it would make more sense to have a bit less in the way of subsidies for pie-in-the-sky R&D efforts and more in the way of subsidies for proven technologies like rail transportation.

Photo by Flickr user Asterix used under a Creative Commons license

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