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How to harness the great forces of capitalism to save the world from catastrophe. The forecasts are grim and time is running out, but that’s not the end of the story. In this book, Fred Krupp, longtime president of Environmental Defense Fund, brings a surprisingly hopeful message: We can solve global warming. And in doing so, we will build the new industries, jobs, and fortunes of the twenty-first century.In these pages the reader will encounter the bold innovators and investors who are reinventing energy and the ways we use it. These entrepreneurs are poised to remake the world’s biggest business and save the planet―if America’s political leaders give them a fair chance to compete.12 illustrations
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Capitalism has been proven time and again to be the most powerful economic force in the world. It's now time to bring this engine of change fully to bear on the most pressing problem facing civilization today--global warming.
The way to do this is simple--by installing a cap-and-trade mechanism that will provide genuine economic incentives for companies to cut their pollution and reduce their global warming emissions. It could work this way. The U. S. Congress would first need to set a legally binding and steadily declining limit on the amount of global warming pollution U. S. companies could emit. The emissions allowances could then be divvied up among current emitters or auctioned by the government to raise revenues. Polluters who want to emit more than their fair share would then need to pay more to buy extra credits, while those who reduce their emissions can profit by selling their credits in an open market.
By offering genuine financial benefits to those who develop new ways to generate carbon-free energy and to those who develop new technologies to remove carbon emissions from existing industries, a huge amount of ingenuity and innovation would be unleashed. This has always born fruit in the past, and there is no reason to believe that the markets cannot be harnessed now to solve the growing global warming problems facing the world today. A cap-and-trade market mechanism of this nature would set off an intensive commercial race to find new and creative ways to reinvent energy and the various ways it gets used. A lot of promising new energy sources are already under development, and it's time to let the free markets decide which of these technologies should be scaled up and put into prime time use, and which will lack genuine commercial viability.
In short, let the markets decide how energy should be reinvented--not some government bureaucrat or environmental special interest group.
At the present time, no cost is attached to companies that emit the pollution that contributes to global warming. Equally, no benefit flows to those who come up with workable ways to actually reduce that pollution. The cap-and-trade market concept is designed to provide just such economic incentives and disincentives.
How it would work would be very simple:
■ The United States Congress must set a legal and steadily declining limit on the amount of global warming pollution the country is able to generate each year.
■ The allowances must be divvied up among the current pollution emitters in the form of "carbon credits"--an arbitrary unit that allows the owner to generate a specified amount of pollution.
■ Alternatively, the allowances could be auctioned off by the government to raise some revenue.
■ The ongoing market price of carbon credits is then set by the market itself.
■ If companies want to generate more pollution than they currently have carbon credits for, they will need to purchase additional carbon credits at whatever price the open market sets them at.
■ Conversely, if companies introduce new technology which allows them to reduce their carbon emissions, they will have more carbon credits than they need. Companies can profit by selling those carbon credits on the open market.
The normal market forces and human impulses like ingenuity, ideal-ism and ambition would then be harnessed in this way to undo some of the damage that has led to global warming. Companies that come up with carbon-free ways to generate electricity, for example, would generate huge financial windfalls under a cap-and-trade mechanism of this nature. It would also create a level playing field where the risks involved in investing in some of these new clean technologies can be offset by the sizable benefits that could flow if successful.
The real benefit of a cap-and-trade system, however, would lie in the regulatory certainty this kind of system would provide. At the present time, the developers of low-carbon technologies must hope markets will emerge for what they are developing. This makes these types of investments high risk from both a technical and a commercial perspective. With a commitment to a cap-and-trade system, at least the commercial risks will become better known. It will be clear that there will be a market for what becomes available because there is a cap that is being steadily lowered. Anything that helps in this effort will obviously and clearly have high commercial value.
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