Midwest cap and trade: Not dead, just sleeping

There’s been some confusion recently about the status of the Midwest cap-and trade-initiative.

It began with an article published by Point Carbon News (subscription required) last Friday, headlined “Midwest ditches carbon market, focuses on jobs.” In the article, a spokeswoman for the Midwestern Governor’s Association said that the current governors in the association have “effectively abandoned” a 2007 pact that would have created a regional cap-and-trade system.

The article also pointed out that the website for the Midwestern Greenhouse Gas Reduction Accord has been taken down.

An article in the Detroit News yesterday quoted a source as saying the MGGRA had been “disbanded.” The article has now been updated to say that the MGGRA states — Kansas, Minnesota, Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin and Michigan, along with Manitoba — had decided last week to “abandon a primary goal of reducing emissions under the Midwestern Greenhouse Gas Reduction Accord.”

And yours truly added to the confusion by running a post without thoroughly vetting the previously published information. While mostly correct, that post has since been taken down because of a critical error:

There has been no “decision” by the MGGRA to “abandon” cap and trade.

“Nothing has changed at all since last spring,” said Jesse Heier, the MGGRA’s coordinator.

“Last spring” would be March 2010, when the MGGRA presented guidelines for a Midwest cap and trade system to the participating states. At that point, no action was taken because there was still a possibility the federal government would develop a national cap-and-trade system (and we all know what happened there).

Without a federal cap-and-trade system, it’s now up to individual states to decide what to do. Clearly, the political environment has changed dramatically since 2007, and all of the governors who backed the original cap-and-trade idea (including Minnesota’s Tim Pawlenty, who’s made perhaps the most dramatic about-face on climate and energy issues) have either left office or were voted out.

So no one’s exactly sitting around holding their breath waiting for Midwest cap and trade to take off. But it’s not accurate to say the concept has been abandoned.

As for the website? Heier said it’s been gone since January, and few people noticed until now. The reason? It’s not so much a matter of the MGGRA not existing, but that it has completed the task it was designed to do.

Bottom line: Obituaries for Midwest cap-and-trade are premature at best.

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