Why Warner-Lieberman Failed and How to Get America’s Working Families behind the Next Cap-and-Trade Bill
Among partisans of greenhouse gas emissions regulation, the Senate’s failure to pass the Warner-Lieberman cap-and-trade bill is often attributed to rampant denial, fueled by diehard political conservatism, energy-company propaganda, and government suppression of evidence on global warming. If so, the solution to the problem is electoral change, exposure of the propaganda, and public education. However, public concern is already so widespread that even leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention have acknowledged the need for action. In this paper, I consider two additional forces that have stymied carbon emissions regulation in developing countries. The first is the perception that costly carbon regulation promoted by the rich will inflict an unjust burden on the poor. The second is hostility to taxation of critical fossil-fuel resources that were developed long before climate risk was identified. My econometric analysis suggests that these same forces have significantly affected senators’ votes on Warner-Lieberman. By implication, Congress is not likely to approve cap-and-trade legislation unless Americans with below-median incomes are compensated for expected losses. My analysis supports recent proposals for direct distribution of emissions permit auction revenues to American families on an equal per-capita basis.