Four decades ago graudate student Thomas Crocker cooked up the idea of cap-and-trade. Now retired economist Thomas Crocker disses the idea as House Democrats would apply it.
In the 1960s, a University of Wisconsin graduate student named Thomas Crocker came up with a novel solution for environmental problems: cap emissions of pollutants and then let firms trade permits that allow them to pollute within those limits.
When he was a graduate student in the 1960s working to reduce pollutants, Thomas Crocker devised a cap-and-trade system similar to one being considered in Congress.
Now legislation using cap-and-trade to limit greenhouse gases is working its way through Congress and could become the law of the land. But Mr. Crocker and other pioneers of the concept are doubtful about its chances of success. They aren’t abandoning efforts to curb emissions. But they are tiptoeing away from an idea they devised decades ago, doubting it can work on the grand scale now envisioned.
“I’m skeptical that cap-and-trade is the most effective way to go about regulating carbon,” says Mr. Crocker, 73 years old, a retired economist in Centennial, Wyo. He says he prefers an outright tax on emissions because it would be easier to enforce and provide needed flexibility to deal with the problem.
The House has passed cap-and-trade legislation. The Senate could take up a measure in September. But Republicans strongly oppose the idea — arguing that it is a tax that will hurt the economy — and Democrats are struggling to come up with an approach that apportions the inevitable cost of a cap-and-trade system among different interests, from consumers to utilities to coal plants.
Mr. Crocker, who went on to become a professor at the University of Wyoming, is one of two economists who dreamed up cap-and-trade in the 1960s. The other, John Dales, who died in 2007, was also a skeptic of using the idea to tame global warning.
Of course, the bigger question is whether global warming is actually a crisis requiring drastic action to cut energy consumption and limit if not end economic growth. But if Congress plans on adopting hugely expensive measures to reduce pollution, shouldn’t it at least use the most cost-effective approach?
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