A couple of weeks I noted that John McCain didn't seem to understand what a cap and trade system was, despite the fact that he not only advocates such a system, but has actually co-sponsored legislation to create one. There was some debate in comments about whether McCain might have meant something else. Now, however, Kate Sheppard at Gristmill reports that he's done it again. From a press conference today:
"QUESTION: The European Union has set mandatory targets on renewable energy. Is that something you would consider in a McCain administration? [...]
MCCAIN: 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."
"Which is, of course, completely out of line with his own proposal for a cap-and-trade scheme, both the plan he proposed with Joe Lieberman last year and his own presidential plan, released last month. They both would, by nature, be mandatory -- hence the "cap" in the name. This isn't the first time McCain has misunderstood his own policy on cap-and-trade. In the Republican debate in Florida in January, he also denied that his cap-and-trade program included a mandatory cap on carbon.
He also appeared confused about the definition of cap-and-trade in an interview with Greenwire ($ub req'd):It's not quote mandatory caps. It's cap-and-trade, OK. It's not mandatory caps to start with. It's cap-and-trade. That's very different. OK, because that's a gradual reduction in greenhouse-gas emissions. So please portray it as cap-and-trade. That's the way I call it."
Except, of course, that mandatory caps are an essential part of a cap and trade system. Thus:
"Emissions trading (or emission trading) is an administrative approach used to control pollution by providing economic incentives for achieving reductions in the emissions of pollutants. It is sometimes called cap and trade.
A central authority (usually a government or international body) sets a limit or cap on the amount of a pollutant that can be emitted. Companies or other groups are issued emission permits and are required to hold an equivalent number of allowances (or credits) which represent the right to emit a specific amount. The total amount of allowances and credits cannot exceed the cap, limiting total emissions to that level. Companies that need to increase their emissions must buy credits from those who pollute less. The transfer of allowances is referred to as a trade. In effect, the buyer is paying a charge for polluting, while the seller is being rewarded for having reduced emissions by more than was needed. Thus, in theory, those that can easily reduce emissions most cheaply will do so, achieving the pollution reduction at the lowest possible cost to society"
"What are the elements of a well-designed cap and trade program?
A successful market-based program requires just a few minimum elements. All of the following are absolutely essential to an efficient and effective program:
A mandatory emissions "cap." This is a limit on the total tons of emissions that can be emitted. It provides the standard by which environmental progress is measured, and it gives tons traded on the pollution market value; if the tons didn’t result in real reductions to the atmosphere, they don’t have any market value.
A fixed number of allowances for each polluting entity. Each allowance gives the owner the right to emit one ton of pollution at any time. Allocation of allowances can occur via a number of different formulas.
Banking and trading. A source that reduces its emissions below its allowance level may sell the extra allowances to another source. A source that finds it more expensive to reduce emissions below allowable levels may purchase allowances from another source. Buyers and sellers may “bank” any unused allowances for future use.(...)"
Lest there be any doubt, check out this exchange from the January debate Sheppard cites:
Russert: Senator McCain, you are in favor of mandatory caps.
McCain: No, I'm in favor of cap-and-trade. And Joe Lieberman and I, one of my favorite Democrats and I, have proposed that -- and we did the same thing with acid rain. They're doing it in Europe now, although not very well.
And all we are saying is, "Look, if you can reduce your greenhouse gas emissions, you earn a credit. If somebody else is going to increase theirs, you can sell it to them." And, meanwhile, we have a gradual reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.
Just ask yourself why anyone would bother buying and selling credits, as McCain suggests, if they didn't need them in order to make up the difference between their actual emissions and what they're allowed to emit. Moreover, note that the acid rain program McCain refers to has a mandatory cap, as does the EU program he refers to.
The best you can say for McCain, on this point, is that he is completely unfamiliar with what is supposed to be one of his signature issues. Not knowing what "mandatory cap" means, in this context, is like not knowing what a "strike" is in baseball. You might, if you wished, explain why you said you hoped your team got a lot of strikes by saying that you thought strikes were a good thing, like 'striking gold', or that you thought that 'striking out' indicated the beginning of a long journey around the bases, as in 'striking out for the territories.' That might even be what you meant. But if it were, that would show that you weren't all that familiar with baseball.