New Solution for Oil Spill? ~ James Barry

Via elephant journal
on Jul 13, 2010
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Cap-and-Trade: What the Detractors Forget

The Gulf oil spill is the worst environmental disaster in the nation’s history.  With tragedy comes response, and the Obama Administration is finally talking energy legislation. One prominent solution is a “cap-and-trade” system in order to limit carbon emissions from polluters. The cap-and-trade system is a market-based system where emissions are capped, allowances to emit the emissions are distributed amongst the polluters, and those polluters trade the allowances amongst themselves by giving the allowances to those who cut pollution in order to reduce emissions most efficiently. If polluter A can cut emissions more cheaply than polluter B, then B pays A to cut A’s emissions, and A gives B the allowances to pollute.

Cap-and-trade, however, has its detractors. (Ironically, many of those detractors are champions of market-based systems.) The critics of cap-and-trade systems complain about two things. They say it will bankrupt the U.S. economy, and they say it won’t work. They are wrong on both counts. The U.S. already has a cap-and-trade system: the Acid Rain Program. It hasn’t bankrupted the U.S. economy. And it is working.

Have you heard of acid rain lately? Probably not. The Acid Rain Program is a cap-and-trade system on the gasses that cause acid rain, and it has made large strides in eliminating the problem by incenting the use of fuels that do not cause acid rain.

President George H. W. Bush signed the market-based Acid Rain Program in 1990. Acid rain has greatly diminished, and the U.S. economy is not bankrupt (from the cap-and-trade system, anyway).

James Barry is in the Class of 2011 at the University of Colorado Law School. In addition to his law degree, James is also a member of the Graduate Certificate Program in Renewable and Sustainable Energy at the University of Colorado. Outside of school, he has worked in a variety of capacities to advance the interests of clean energy: both in the private sector and at policy centers. He specializes is energy regulation and climate change policy at both the state and federal levels.


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4 Responses to “New Solution for Oil Spill? ~ James Barry”

  1. Mr. G says:


    New Solution for Oil Spill? Where is that article located because clearly I'm in the wrong place. Instead of an oil spill solution I just read an elementary school child's book report on cap-and-trade.

    Maybe if the writer spent more time on the article instead of his lengthy bio, there would be some substance.

    If you want to actually read about some real solutions that are being shared go over to

  2. Krystal Leer says:

    BP is literally banking on our “gnat-sized” attention spans and our understandable crisis fatigue to let them get away virtually scot free from any responsibility, whether financial or moral, for this massive, man made disaster. They continue to inhibit the flow of accurate information about what has and what is currently happening in the Gulf, they continue to destroy and hide evidence of their culpability, buying scientists, lawyers and politicians, even reporters. Media outlets want us to believe that the oil is largely gone or missing somehow. It may not be as visible now in some areas, but it is there continuing to suck oxygen from the water, causing huge “dead zones” — worse, the toxic dispersants used, largely against recommendations, are there too, making the oil even more dangerous. Please do not buy the media line and assume that soon the crisis will be past. Don’t let BP or Congress off the hook. They could be the only creatures on the hook in large portions of the gulf right now!

  3. […] In Appalachia, MTR is an industry that yields less than 5% of coal within the coal industry according to Appalachian Voices.  Less than 5%?  Is this worth water contamination, loss of air quality? Is it worth damaged or lost homes due to blasting the foundations? Is this worth a loss of culture, as the area is being threaten by big corporations wanting to own these sites.  I think not, but then again when an “economically desired resource” is at stake the average American citizen is not as valuable as the desired resource. […]

  4. qwetrader says:

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