Thumbs up on cooperation, thumbs down on substance

The Kerry-Graham NYT op ed on climate policy is a welcome sign of collaboration across the aisle, but its substance is mixed. The five main points are:
  1. "We agree that climate change is real and threatens our economy and national security." [good!]

  2. "While we invest in renewable energy sources like wind and solar, we must also take advantage of nuclear power, our single largest contributor of emissions-free power." [fine]

  3. "Climate change legislation is an opportunity to get serious about breaking our dependence on foreign oil." [i.e. we need clean coal and offshore drilling]

  4. "We cannot sacrifice another job to competitors overseas." [i.e. we need carbon tariffs]

  5. "We will develop a mechanism to protect businesses — and ultimately consumers — from increases in energy prices." [good]
As a friend points out, clean coal is nice, but it won't do much to displace oil imports, since the vast majority of oil is used for transportation fuel, whereas coal is entirely used for power. (NB: this could change if CNG or coal-to-liquids ever took off in the U.S., but the former is still a Pickens pipe dream for now, and the technology for the latter has bad economics even without carbon pricing, which would make it completely untenable).

But the worst point is clearly the nearly naked defense of climate-inspired trade protectionism. Kerry-Graham claim that such tariffs will incentivize other countries to adopt environmentally friendly policies; this is the best possible outcome, but sparking a global trade war is another one, and it’s not clear to me why the latter is any less likely.

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