Is Cap-and-Trade Finally Dead?

Pundits are skeptical that legislation can be passed

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After the sweeping electoral returns for Democrats in 2008, a cap-and-trade bill once looked like a near certainty. But as the Obama administration pivots to blunt any potential losses in this November's midterm, that looks less likely. Harry Reid's last ditch efforts to get environmentalists and utilities executives on board has stalled and public support has been slipping for the potential legislation. Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson's recent opposition to the bill underscores how difficult it will be to get even a modified version passed. Nonetheless, Reid still appears to hold out hope for cap-and-trade. Pundits, however, aren't so sure:

  • Cap-And-Trade is Dead declares The Washington Post's Ezra Klein. "The BP oil spill offered a chance to change the fundamentals on the issue and Democrats decided against trying to use the disaster as a galvanizing moment for climate legislation. Word games don't offer a similar opportunity."

  • The Energy Bill Could Be a Disaster if utilities companies get their way, writes The New Republic's Bradford Plumer. "A lot of greens have been pushing for cap-and-trade for a long time, and it would be a major victory for them if they got it this year, but it seems that even the groups most committed to compromise can see that this trade-off just isn't worth it."

  • There is Virtually No Possibility pronounces William O'Keefe for the National Journal. Although cap-and-trade could be married to oil spill legislation, the CEO of the George Marshall Institute argues that the "toxic mistrust" must be purged out of Congress before it takes such an enormous step. "60 votes needs evidence of a commitment to do it right and that suggests a series of small but effective steps. Comprehensive legislation on something as complex as climate policy is simply not realistic."

  • Harry Reid Offers a Realistic Energy Bill suggests a Washington Post Editorial. While the Senate Majority Leader's legislation is "less ambitious" than a previous incarnation put forward by Sens. Kerry, Lieberman and Graham, it targets the right utilities in the power industry. "Power plants account for 40 percent of all U.S. carbon dioxide emissions, and many utilities already have gotten on board with the concept of a cap. Rather than simply opposing the cap out of hand, as many have in the past, Republicans should help make sure that it works sensibly."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.