Mar 13 2009

Robert Reich on Obama’s “cap and trade” plan for the environment

Published by at 10:25 pm under Environment,Externalities,Market failure

Robert Reich’s Blog: Is Obamanomics Conservative or Revolutionary?

Former Secretary of Labor and Berkely Economist thinks Obama’s federal government budget is conservative and responsible. He also likes Obama’s plan for tackling environmental problems, which uses the “cap and trade” system of using a market to internalize the environmental costs of firms’ production which in the past have been externalized due to lack of effective regulation.

What about the environment? Isn’t cap and trade a huge deal? Not at all. Instead of heavy-handed regulation it’s a market solution to the problem of global warming. Government merely sets an overall cap on the amount of carbon dioxide to be allowed into the atmosphere, which drops annually, and then requires firms to bid for permits to pollute within that overall cap. Firms can buy and sell permits to each other; they can innovate to reduce pollution even further. Such a system will generate enough revenues to give 95 percent of Americans a yearly refundable tax credit of $400, and also finance research and development of renewable energy and a modernized electricity grid.

There’s much more to this excellent post by economist Robert Reich, and I recommend anyone interested in economics give it a read.

Below is an illustration of the effect that a “cap and trade” program will have on the cost of firms to pollute, showing that over time the amount of permissible pollution can be tightened thereby increasing the incentive for firms to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.


About the author:  Jason Welker teaches International Baccalaureate and Advanced Placement Economics at Zurich International School in Switzerland. In addition to publishing various online resources for economics students and teachers, Jason developed the online version of the Economics course for the IB and is has authored two Economics textbooks: Pearson Baccalaureate’s Economics for the IB Diploma and REA’s AP Macroeconomics Crash Course. Jason is a native of the Pacific Northwest of the United States, and is a passionate adventurer, who considers himself a skier / mountain biker who teaches Economics in his free time. He and his wife keep a ski chalet in the mountains of Northern Idaho, which now that they live in the Swiss Alps gets far too little use. Read more posts by this author

5 responses so far

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