The Story of Cap and Trade

Photo courtesy of <a href="">The Story of Stuff website</a>.

Annie Leonard, creator of The Story of Stuff, a popular web video that argues against consumerism, released a new video yesterday on cap and trade. Like her earlier effort, The Story of Cap-and-Trade features engaging narration and cute, easy-to-understand comic sketches to explain an extremely complex issue.

The problem? Leonard vastly oversimplifies cap and trade and its problems. The video blames the current difficulties surrounding cap and trade entirely on the policy itself, not the lawmakers and special interest groups seeking to load the legislation with exceptions and giveaways. The problems she highlights would dog any proposal to address climate change in the US. If Congress suddenly adopted a carbon tax, the coal, oil, and gas lobbies, aided by their favorite senators, would carve out gaping loopholes for their industries. The policy isn’t the real villain  here—it’s the politics. 

“The next time somebody tells you cap and trade is the best we’re going to get, don’t believe them,” Leonard concludes. But what superior proposal has any kind of meaningful political support? Leonard never attempts to explain this. The reality is that ditching cap and trade now would leave us with no politically viable legislative options to combat climate change at all. 

The estimable David Roberts has a thorough take-down of the video at Grist, which I recommend. And here’s the video, so you can decide for yourself:

The Story of Cap & Trade from Story of Stuff Project on Vimeo.


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  • Kate Sheppard was a staff reporter in Mother Jones' Washington bureau from 2009 to 2013. She is now a senior reporter and the energy and environment editor at The Huffington Post. She can be reached by email at kate (dot) sheppard (at) huffingtonpost (dot) com and you can follow her on Twitter @kate_sheppard.