“Under my plan of a cap and trade system, electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket . Even regardless of what I say about whether coal is good or bad. Because I’m capping greenhouse gases…they would have to retrofit their operations. That will cost money. They will pass that money on to consumers.
“They–you–you can already see what the arguments will be during the general election. People will say, ‘Ah, Obama and Al Gore, these folks, they’re going to destroy the economy, this is going to cost us eight trillion dollars,’ or whatever their number is.”
Well, it didn’t turn out that way. Until Gov. Sarah Palin brought it up yesterday, nobody seemed to notice that Sen. Obama had said any such thing. While one can wonder why the Chronicle didn’t play up Obama’s rather bracing statement more than it has–or why what was in plain sight on the Internet for nine months didn’t attract more attention from the blogosphere, print media outlets, or even the McCain campaign itself–one thing is clear: Barack Obama is at least (sometimes) intellectually honest. Sen. McCain–at least on this issue–is not.
Sen. Obama’s frank confession about what his climate change policies will mean to electricity consumers is one very good reason why so many conservative and libertarian intellectuals are gravitating toward his candidacy. It’s not that right‐wing thinkers necessarily endorse his climate change policies. It’s that right‐wing thinkers are increasingly tired of Republican hypocrisy and make‐believe policy fights.
Sen. Obama supports cutting emissions by 80% by 2050. Sen. McCain, on the other hand, proposes a 60% cut in emissions by that same date. It is hard to say what those programs will actually cost because we lack concrete details, and the cost of reducing greenhouse gas emissions both now and in the future is uncertain. But we know they will cost something.
A reasonably good stab at quantifying likely costs can be found in an analysis performed last April by the U.S. Energy Information Administration. In that exercise, the EIA looked at a bill sponsored by Sens. Joe Lieberman and John Warner to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 70% by 2050. EIA concluded that the Lieberman‐Warner bill would increase annual household energy costs by somewhere between $30 and $325 by 2020 and between $76 and $723 by 2030. Gasoline prices in particular would be between 22 and 49 cents per gallon higher than otherwise would have been the case in 2020 and between 41 cents and $1.01 higher in 2030.