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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

February 28, 2009 at 3:30 PM

Climate-change legislation

The boat leaving the dock

Kudos to Michael Butler in his comprehensive guest column in favor of cap and trade [“Cap-and-invest approach good for environment and economy,” Times, Feb. 23].

If the Bush administration hadn’t jammed our country’s collective head in the sand eight years ago, blocking U.S. participation in the Kyoto Protocol, maybe we’d be a lot farther along in addressing the real issues facing the planet.

Washington state can either continue down that dead-end road or we can be among the leaders turning our country around in order to become a respected member of the global community.

The cap-and-trade bills currently in the Legislature provide a great opportunity for our state.

The boat has already left the dock in many economies around the world. Sadly, the U.S. is behind many European and Asian countries in developing frameworks that facilitate capitalizing on the opportunities available in solving global-environmental challenges.

If we continue to wait for others, others will pass us by. Washington must adopt cap and trade now, so we will be in the forefront of the new, greener economy and can reap the advantages available only to the leaders in such times of transition.

— Holly Anderson, Bellevue

Make it mandatory

I read in The Seattle Times: “On Tuesday, the Senate Committee on Environment, Water and Energy passed a version that gutted the plan by making it voluntary for businesses to participate” [“Committee chokes emissions plan,” Local News, Feb. 24].

Without a mandatory cap, there will be no emissions market. Without mandatory constraints, there is no way to place a valid cost on emissions. So how can we hope to affect climate change?

A similar problem exists with the idea of a “fixed” carbon tax that everyone can use for planning purposes. How is this tax price to be determined? If it does not take into account the proposed emissions cap, how will it result in the intended objectives? If it is a fixed tax, how can it adjust to changing economic conditions?

Markets work.

In the United States, there are already national markets to reduce acid rain and nitrous oxide. These emissions markets have worked much better than expected and at much lower cost than anyone estimated.

I hope the legislators can restore the mandatory constraints so we will have a cap-and-invest bill that really works. We need to act now.

— Dan Streiffert, Kent

Ban the belchers in our environment

I am extremely dissatisfied with the state Senate Committee on Environment, Water and Energy to push for voluntary participation in a carbon emissions-cap program.

Clean air is a public good we all benefit from, so polluters should be charged for the emissions they belch into our common resource. A mandatory cap-and-invest program, along the lines of Governor Christine Gregoire’s bill, does just that.

But, voluntary, opt-in participation destroys the integrity of climate-change legislation.

Would drivers pay tolls if they were voluntary? Would smokers pay cigarette taxes if they were voluntary? Of course not. Tolls and cigarette taxes make up for the social costs of human activities that negatively affect others.

But, they are only effective because they are mandatory.

The Senate Committee must recognize that a voluntary carbon cap will have little to no impact on the activities of our dirtiest polluters. Until our legislators act on a mandatory cap-and-invest bill, unmitigated polluters will continue to damage common resources at the expense of all citizens.

— Charles Davis, Seattle

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