TEXT OF STORY
KAI RYSSDAL: Tomorrow, the latest version of what’s called a cap-and-trade plan is set to be introduced in the Senate — a cap on the amount of CO2 companies can spew out, a trade system to create a market for, and put a price on, those quotas.
Big utility companies have been lobbying furiously for a version they can live with. This afternoon, they petitioned the Senate for special relief. From the Marketplace Sustainability Desk, Sarah Gardner reports.
Sarah Gardner: Over the past year or so, a growing number of energy companies has endorsed the idea of cap-and-trade. And most would prefer passing legislation this year, before the possibility of an even tougher bill if a Democrat is elected president.
Utilities are now calling for a so-called “safety valve” provision that would allow the government to put a ceiling on the price of those emissions credits once they hit a certain level. Tom Williams at Duke Energy:
Tom Williams: By putting an upper-end limit on how much those allowances could sell for, it really prevents price spikes in electricity — and particularly those regions of the country that are very dependent on coal.
Utilities argue a safety valve would make prices more predictable, so companies could better plan long-term investments. But environmental groups oppose a safety valve… Let the free market work, they say. If carbon prices go up, that will spur new clean-energy technology.
Frank O’Donnell, executive director of Clean Air Watch, says the point is emissions cuts, not price controls.
Frank O’Donnell: If you have a so-called safety valve, essentially it would neuter the legislation. It would be gutting any attempt to have an effective global-warming plan.
The bill scheduled to be introduced tomorrow offers a compromise of sorts: Under that legislation, a board of experts could tinker with the system if they determined carbon prices significantly threatened the economy.
I’m Sarah Gardner for Marketplace.
There’s a lot happening in the world. Through it all, Marketplace is here for you.
You rely on Marketplace to break down the world’s events and tell you how it affects you in a fact-based, approachable way. We rely on your financial support to keep making that possible.
Your donation today powers the independent journalism that you rely on. For just $5/month, you can help sustain Marketplace so we can keep reporting on the things that matter to you.