A cap and trade system for people

CO2 skywriting

TEXT OF STORY

Kai Ryssdal: While health care's been the belle of the ball, climate change legislation has been in the Congressional deep freeze for months now. But there does seem to be a bit of a thaw coming. At a meeting on Capitol Hill yesterday, key members of the Senate shared what they've been working on with some business groups. The once and future approach picks up where earlier legislation left off. It is supposed to limit industrial greenhouse gas emissions.

And there's a new twist too: Encouraging individuals to limit their pollution as well. Marketplace's Mitchell Hartman reports.


MITCHELL HARTMAN: This proposal uses a market-based system. The government caps emissions and companies trade pollution permits. But it also peppers in something else.

Lou Hayden of the American Petroleum Institute.

LOU HAYDEN: They're looking at a cap-and-trade approach for stationary sources of greenhouse gases, like utilities, some kind of linked fee on fuels.

It's that linked fee that's the new part. And it would cover gasoline, diesel, airplane fuel. Consumers would pay at the pump or the gate.

RON PERNICK: And that may look something more along the lines of a carbon tax, although they won't use the term tax.

Ron Pernick runs consulting firm Clean Edge. He says the goal is to have consumers see the cost directly.

PERNICK: We've gotten very used to low-cost energy, and energy is going to cost more.

AMANDA ROSEN: If you can directly attach a price to the use of carbon, people are going to be much less likely to use it in excess.

Amanda Rosen is a political scientist at Webster University. She says behavior is likely to change in the long run, as more fuel-efficient cars hit the market. But...

ROSEN: If you live in the suburbs and you need to commute into the city to work, you can't just buy a new house in the middle of the city, or change your childrens' schools, and move on a dime because your gas bill got really high. In terms of the short run, the changes you could make are actually pretty limited.

Rosen says people will probably have plenty of time to get ready. The legislation hasn't even been formally proposed yet.

I'm Mitchell Hartman for Marketplace.

About the author

Mitchell Hartman is the senior reporter for Marketplace’s Entrepreneurship Desk and also covers employment.

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