Acid Rainbow

March 25, 2008

The end of a day spent reading several newspapers, sifting through hundreds of blog posts, discussion boards, news archives, making phone calls, asking questions– and then to realize I haven’t really learned much.

I guess an interesting set of global energy consumption charts will have to do for now.

If you pay attention, you realize that abundant references to increased demand from India and China in energy policy rhetoric mean exactly dick when viewed next to U.S. consumption levels. Not that consumption in those countries isn’t rising, but it’s still nowhere near American levels, where the bulk of the problem lies.

Right now, everyone in the presidential race is pushing a cap and trade policy for carbon emissions. It might do a little good, because it can set a maximum level for carbon emissions in a given municipality, but it allows the worst polluters to buy the right to do nothing to change their ways, as smaller companies sell pollution credits they probably wouldn’t have used up anyways to the larger offenders.

Also, as my NYPIRG “House of Fun” seminars drilled into me many times over, it allows for the creation of “hotpots,” localized communities with significantly worse pollution than others. Not only does this put these communities at special risk to the health-related side effects, but it allows the general population to continue ignoring the problem. While the “hotspot” problem mostly pertains to the emission of mercury and other heavy pollutants, the political fallout of pushing pollutants to certain areas is what really matters in this case.

“Hotspots” are likely to be in low-population, low-income areas with little political influence. People with the means will move away, leaving an even smaller, poorer political voice to take up the charge of anti-pollution efforts. Politicians can point to their cap and trade policy and claim progress and action, when in reality they’ve done nothing to solve the problem, just changed its nature and the areas it affects most directly.

Thus, cap and trade basically ensures that, though aggregate pollution may decline somewhat, the actual practice of the nation’s worst polluters will remain the same until the people that put the system in place are safely out of office.

Of course, you don’t have to take my word for it. There’s plenty you can read for yourself.

I’ll see you next time.

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