Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

PolitiFact Florida | Tampa Bay Times
Sorting out the truth in state politics

PolitiFact: Cap and trade idea has strong Republican roots

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio made waves about climate change in a May 11 interview on ABC's This Week.

"I do not believe that human activity is causing these dramatic changes to our climate the way these scientists are portraying it," Rubio said. "And I do not believe that the laws that they propose we pass will do anything about it. Except it will destroy our economy."

After a May 13 speech at Daemen College in upstate New York, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston, suggested that voters stop electing tea party-aligned politicians — and then she turned her sights on Rubio for disagreeing with the scientific consensus that climate change is man-made. She called for politicians to reach across the aisle in search of solutions, singling out a cap and trade plan as an area where the parties could agree.

"That was originally a Republican idea," she said. "It was developed in the 1970s when the Clean Air Act was initially adopted."

Was it?

The idea of cap and trade is that the government sets a limit (the cap) on how much carbon individual companies — typically electric utilities and manufacturers — can emit. The government then issues permits to companies and allows them to buy and sell the permits as needed (the trade). If the policy works as planned, overall emissions decline, companies determine for themselves the best way to lower emissions, and the free market rewards those who lower emissions most effectively.

Wasserman Schultz started the clock ticking in the 1970s. Her spokesman, Sean Bartlett, told PolitiFact Florida that "the 1977 Clean Air Act amendments were the first time federal law used the concept of offset mechanisms that ultimately became the 'cap and trade' systems."

That law included precursor ideas, such as providing industry with flexibility to meet limits, rather than simply imposing controlling regulations, said Eric Pooley, a spokesman for the Environmental Defense Fund and author of The Climate War: True Believers, Power Brokers, and the Fight to Save the Earth.

In the 1980s, President Ronald Reagan used a cap and trade system to phase out leaded gasoline, noted MIT economics professor Richard Schmalensee and Harvard Kennedy School government professor Robert Stavins.

In 1989, President George H.W. Bush proposed the use of a cap and trade system to cut by half sulfur dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants and consequent acid rain, they wrote in a Boston Globe op-ed in 2010.

"An initially resistant Democratic Congress overwhelmingly endorsed the proposal," the professors wrote. "The landmark Clean Air Act amendments of 1990 passed the Senate 89 to 10 and the House 401 to 25."

Bush not only accepted the cap, but he sided with environmentalists who wanted a larger cut than his own advisers, according to Smithsonian Magazine, in a report that detailed how the Environmental Defense Fund worked with Bush's White House to make cap and trade a reality.

"George H.W. Bush does indeed deserve enormous credit for being the champion of the cap and trade program for sulfur dioxide, a major cause of acid rain," Pooley said. "That has led many over the years to refer to it as a Republican idea."

But Pooley said that Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell — a Democrat — also deserves credit for leading the legislative charge that ultimately passed by an overwhelming bipartisan majority.

"So if pressed, I would call it a bipartisan idea that was championed by a Republican president," he told PolitiFact Florida.

In 2005, the EPA under President George W. Bush issued the Clean Air Interstate Rule, which aimed to achieve "the largest reduction in air pollution in more than a decade" using cap and trade, wrote Stavins and Schmalensee.

They noted the contributions under Reagan and both Bushes to argue that cap and trade should be embraced by Republicans as well as Democrats.

"After all, these policies were innovations developed by conservatives in the Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and George W. Bush administrations (and once strongly condemned by liberals)," they wrote.

In 2003, Sen. John McCain, an Arizona Republican, and Sen. Joe Lieberman, then a Democrat from Connecticut, introduced the "Climate Stewardship Act," which would have used a similar cap and trade approach to reduce carbon pollution linked to global warming.

Versions of the bill were reintroduced in 2005 and 2007.

That was the first time legislation was introduced to use cap and trade for carbon emissions, Pooley told PolitiFact.

McCain's 2007 version was co-sponsored by Illinois Democratic Sen. Barack Obama. And both McCain and Obama had cap and trade programs in their presidential platforms.

We rate this claim Mostly True.

Edited for print. Read the full version at PolitiFact.com/Florida.

FPO

The statement

Cap and trade legislation "was originally a Republican idea."

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston, May 13 after a speech

The ruling

PolitiFact ruling: Mostly True
Democrats did support cap and trade legislation at different points, but we found a strong tradition of support from Republicans for cap and trade. We rate this claim Mostly True.

PolitiFact: Cap and trade idea has strong Republican roots 06/01/14 [Last modified: Monday, June 2, 2014 1:00am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. In this Dec. 4, 2016, file photo, Tiger Woods watches his tee shot on the third hole during the final round at the Hero World Challenge golf tournament in Nassau, Bahamas. Woods has been arrested on a drunken driving charge in Palm Beach County , various media outlets are reporting. [AP photo]
  2. Tiger Woods arrested on DUI charge in Florida

    Public Safety

    Tiger Woods was arrested on a DUI charge Monday in Jupiter, according to the Palm Beach County sheriff's office.

    Tiger Woods has been arrested on a DUI charge in Florida.
  3. Boy, 9, hospitalized after shooting in St. Petersburg

    Crime

    ST. PETERSBURG — A 9-year-old boy was injured Monday morning in a shooting in the 2300 block of 17th Ave S, police said.

    A juvenile was injured in a shooting Monday morning in the 2300 block of 17th Ave S in St. Petersburg. (Zachary Sampson, Tampa Bay Times)
  4. Big rents and changing tastes drive dives off St. Pete's 600 block

    Music & Concerts

    ST. PETERSBURG — Kendra Marolf was behind the lobby bar of the State Theatre, pouring vodka sodas for a weeknight crowd packed tight for Bishop Briggs, the latest alternative artist to sell out her club.

    Sam Picciano, 25, left, of Tampa and Molly Cord 24, Palm Harbor shop for record albums for a friend at Daddy Kool Records located on the 600 block of Central Avenue in St. Petersburg, Florida on Saturday, May 20, 2017. OCTAVIO JONES   |   Times
  5. How Hollywood is giving its biggest stars digital facelifts

    Business

    LOS ANGELES — Johnny Depp is 53 years old but he doesn't look a day over 26 in the new "Pirates of the Caribbean" movie — at least for a few moments. There was no plastic surgeon involved, heavy makeup or archival footage used to take the actor back to his boyish "Cry Baby" face, however. It's all …

    This combination of photos released by Disney, shows the character Jack Sparrow at two stages of his life in "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales."  Johnny Depp, who portrays the character, is the latest mega-star to get the drastic de-aging treatment on screen
[Disney via Associated Press]