Is Cap And Trade Dead In The Water?

On CNBC today, John Harwood reported that the silence from the Obama administration on cap and trade is deafening, implying that the carbon reduction program is likely to get shelved.

Republicans are pushing back on Obama’s budget and of all the things that can get gutted, the cap and trade program is the most likely to get slain. Obama doesn’t want to lose political capital battling for cap and trade. He’d rather get his healthcare agenda passed through.

Since utilities say the program will raise the price of energy for folks in the midwest and elsewhere, Obama doesn’t want to press too hard right now on the issue.

The administration is neither confirming nor denying that they’ll put cap and trade on ice. When asked about the administrations efforts to reduce emissions, White House press man Robert Gibbs said they’d focus on solar, wind, electric cars. Important to note that he didn’t defend the cap and trade program.

Gibbs isn’t the only one hedging, here’s Budget Director Peter Orszag on cap and trade with Wolf Blitzer:

BLITZER Most of the Republicans — and, indeed, a bunch of Democrats, as well, say the country can’t afford what you would like to do as far as carbon emissions are concerned — to have the so-called “cap and trade” tax, if you will, making electricity — gasoline even more expensive for American consumers. While worthwhile, it would simply be too expensive.

Are you ready to back away from that, as well?

ORSZAG Well, again, the key thing we want to do is reduce our dependence on foreign oil and move towards clean energy. I think what we’re seeing emerge from the House and Senate on cap and trade, specifically, is perhaps moving that outside of the budget resolution process.

BLITZER So, in other words, not making it what you originally wanted, but you’re ready to compromise on that?

ORSZAG Again, what we’re — what we — what we’re focused on is investing in clean energy and reducing dependence on foreign oil. And with regard to cap and trade, there are different ways for getting legislation done.

BLITZER Cap and trade, though, effectively, the Republicans say, would be a tax on gasoline, electricity and other forms of energy.

Is that right?

ORSZAG I wouldn’t characterise it like that. There will be effects on energy prices. But again, global warming and global climate change are — is one of the key threats facing our planet. And we will need to address it at some point.

BLITZER All right.

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