CAP-AND-TRADE was supposed to allow Congress to avoid picking winners and losers in the fight against climate change. Advocates claim that approach, which relies on the market to figure out the easiest way to reduce greenhouse emissions, is at the heart of the Waxman-Markey energy bill that the House is preparing to vote on tomorrow. But, among many, many other things, the 1,200-page bill would also devote $60 billion to making sure clean coal isn't a loser.
Given America's huge reliance on coal to produce electricity -- and the breakneck deployment of dirty coal plants in China -- proponents make a strong case that coal deserves special attention. The bill's cap-and-trade system won't produce a carbon price high enough to spur deployment of clean-coal technology for a very long time, they say. If clean-coal technology can be made more cost-effective, meanwhile, the know-how could be exported abroad. And, some admit, coal-state lawmakers wouldn't be comfortable with a cap-and-trade bill that didn't include a lot for coal.