Tuesday, June 17, 2008

McCain on Cap-and-Trade

mccain Senator John McCain, in response to a question, made a curious comment about cap-and-trade yesterday:

Sure. I believe in the cap-and-trade system, as you know. I would not at this time make those - impose a mandatory cap at this time. But I do believe that we have to establish targets for reductions of greenhouse gas emissions over time, and I think those can be met.

We guess his idea is to get the EPA up to speed on administration and an infrastructure in place for auctions (if there are auctions – and assuming cap-and-trade eventually makes it through Congress – both McCain and Obama favor it), but it seems peculiar not to have the initial caps and a schedule for them in place when the program is ready to go. Otherwise, no market for carbon credits is created.

We’ve noticed McCain’s penchant for comments so terse there may be nothing at all or a universe of detail behind them. It’s not a bad politician trick, and McCain may be trying to signal industry not to worry so much about cap-and-trade while still supporting it in concept – and it makes sense that he should support it, since he drafted an early version of what later became Lieberman-Warner.

Presidential politics, of course, is very different than representing Arizona (or Illinois, in Obama’s case), so positions that make sense in a micro way can make less sense in a macro way. Industry tends to be a Republican go-to for funding, so it seems natural McCain might feint that way, but the power generation industry seems reconciled to a cap-and-trade regime. It’s a bit of a mystery. Is McCain stepping back a little or did he just get too terse for comfort?

McCain’s giving a major speech on energy issues today that should be quite friendly to nuclear energy. More on that later…

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