by Ryan Avent
For a brief window of time we have a Congress and president ready to really do something on carbon pricing. What they're ready to do is pass a cap-and-trade bill. They'll face implacable opposition, which will be speaking in a single voice and with a simple message. If progressives don't wise up, they'll enter yet another battle with a cacophony of clashing messages and strategies, and will be easily divided and outplayed. If the progressive grassroots plays a role in scuttling the best hope for climate legislation the nation has ever had, it will be a bitter irony indeed.
I don't necessarily agree with Dave that cap-and-trade is clearly preferable to a carbon tax (and it's worth remembering that they are very similar -- pundits who declare "serious" only those supporting a carbon tax obviously don't understand the issues involved). But I do think that he's right that it would be a good idea for Democrats to rally around one baseline policy, either tax or cap-and-trade, and use that as the basis of climate legislation. A good analogue is the health care debate, where the big players have largely settled on a framework with which to move forward; the hard questions have already been decided. Though, once again, it's important to state that tax versus trade isn't a hard policy question, just (for some reason) a hard political question.