How Cap & Trade Would Help Wildlife (Or: Cap Pollution, Trade Otters!)

Over at The New Republic’s The Vine, Brad Plumer discusses how sea otters make the case for capping carbon pollution & allowing trading of pollution permits:

Let’s say Congress enacted a cap-and-trade system and pollution permits were selling for about $20 a ton. If [scientist Chris] Wilmers is right and a healthy sea otter population could sequester ten million tons of carbon, that’d be worth $200 million. So polluters might decide that it’s cheaper to fund sea otter preservation programs than cut power use (at least in the short term), and new offset projects could get approved. Voila: There’s suddenly money to try this sea otter strategy. (Obviously you’d need to have regulators make sure these offset projects are actually working.)

On the other hand, if your national energy policy just consists of a bunch of flat regulations and subsidies for different energy sources, then this whole sea otter business is going to get ignored. Sure, maybe Congress will decide that sea otter preservation is something worth funding directly, but waiting for the legislature to bankroll worthwhile carbon-reduction projects is an awfully sluggish and inflexible way to do business. (Plus, who knows, maybe the urchin lobby steps into the fray.) Right now, Congress is leaning toward this regulation-and-subsidy approach to energy. But there’s an excellent case for a more flexible market-based system. Just ask the otters.

You really otter act now (sorry, had to say it) & tell your senators we need clean energy legislation with a cap on carbon pollution.

Photo via Flickr’s MikeBaird