Arguing both sides of the cap and trade debate

Arguing both sides of the cap and trade debate really made me understand that there is not one solution to climate change, or even just emissions control, that is going to be perfect in every scenario and for each participant. There are absolutely sacrifices that have to be made, and the biggest question is really “what are you willing to sacrifice, and for how much?” Are you willing to sacrifice some of your freedom and allow a large government to tell you how much you can pollute before you owe them money, or are you willing to take your chances with the future of the planet, but ensure that America’s economy can develop in a similar playing field as countries like China and India?

I thought it was very noteworthy and a bit sad that at the beginning of the PBS debate [1], the gentlemen arguing against cap and trade noted that we weren’t even totally sure that global warming was happening, or that humans were contributing to it. Luckily, I think we have developed quite a bit in that regard since 2012: even candidates who are very conservative do not outright deny climate change anymore, even if they have in the past [2]. However, that argument really seems to take away some of the seriousness of the arguments against cap and trade. While I’m a supporter of the cap and trade system and think the sacrifices that we would have to make to implement it do not outweigh the benefits, I do recognize that there are some negatives associated with it; namely, that the end consumer is going to have to pay more for their energy, which could create an economic hardship for some families. However, denying that humans are involved in climate change right off of the bat in the interview is so ridiculous that it lessened the seriousness of his other concerns. When I had to argue against cap and trade, I realized how ridiculous his argument sounded, and made the to not question science but instead just focus on facts.

Another point that I was really struck with was while making my argument for the opposite way of how I really feel is how cap and trade started out as a Republican idea that made Democrats skittish, and now Republicans absolutely despise the idea of it. I almost feel like they would appreciate the idea, if only to respect Ronald Reagan, who was a major proponent of the system [1]. As it is, though, it seems like Republicans almost hate it just because it is a regulation set by a large governmental organization, not because it is necessarily going to be bad for the economy. To be honest, much of it feels like partisanship tactics instead of a real concern that the average citizen is not going to be able to afford their electric bill at the end of the month. While arguing both sides, I realized that proponents of the economy could actually pick either side of the argument and make a case for it.

Overall, it was very beneficial to argue both sides of the cap and trade debate, if only to really understand the anti cap and trade side’s opinions. A hidden benefit in that, however, is that when I attempted to look up data to support my argument, I found that there is scientific data to support both sides; that cap and trade will harm the economy, and that it will stimulate growth. The end result is that in order to really argue one side or the other, I had to think about what I was willing to sacrifice, and what my priorities are. Since my priority is lowering emissions and slowing global warming, even after understanding the arguments against cap and trade, I would be willing to risk economic damage and higher energy bills to support my priorities.

by Sarah Bushong, Student in 425.601, Principles of Energy Technologies



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