Will “Cap-and-Trade” be the Next Bubble?

Okay. I’ll confess.

I’ve always considered myself something of an environmentalist. I don’t remember ever hugging a tree, but I hiked and backpacked in my youth. I’ve recycled since the early 80’s. I shunned the use of chemicals and railed against deforestation, over-packaging, and junk mail. I joined Sierra club, World Wildlife and Nature Conservancy in my twenties (and have been a member ever since). But I wouldn’t claim to be an environmental purist.

cc:  Brocken Inaglory
cc: Brocken Inaglory via Wiki Commons

Mostly I’ve just tried to enjoy our natural environment and be a thoughtful and conservation minded consumer.

So when Al Gore came out proclaiming that global warming was upon us and would bring an end to life as we know it, I believed him. And regardless of whichever side of science and popular opinion is currently ahead in the Global warming debate, I still believe that the our current lifestyle of mass production, mass consumption and mass waste is unsustainable.

But a funny thing happened as environmentalism became “Green.” It somehow became less real.

Suddenly green thinkers were everywhere, changing their light bulbs and carrying their eco-friendly bags, while driving a Hummer and anxiously awaiting their chance to purchase the latest version of the newest must have. Yes, they bought the marketing slogan to “Think Green”, but their actions lacked the conviction of a true convert. Their hearts and heads were more invested in the idea of a carbon footprint, then the reality of it. But that was okay. Every little bit helps, as they say. And its true, we all have to make compromises.

Then the talk turned to “Cap and Trade”, and I just couldn’t seem to get myself on the band wagon. I just couldn’t see the logic of some people, companies, industries or states making sacrifices to conserve energy and cut pollution, so others could “buy” the energy saved and use it and/or “buy” the rights to add pollution. How does that get us ahead? And how is that fair?

If I am required by law to make sacrifices, I want every one else by law to make those sacrifices as well. And if my efforts are creating a surplus energy product or pollution “right”, then why wouldn’t that surplus and those rights mine to sell? Why wouldn’t I be the one to receive compensation for my actions? Why would the government or some other entity be making the decision as to whom could buy my energy or pollution credits? And why would they receive the payments for my efforts?

No it just didn’t make sense to me and it didn’t seem right. But I didn’t realize how right my instincts were and how wrong “Cap and Trade” really was, until I read Matt Taibbi’s latest article in .  And would it surprise you to learn that Goldman Sachs has found a way to make money — big money on “cap-and-trade”?

From Taibbi’s The Great American Bubble Machine:

The first thing you need to know about Goldman Sachs is that it’s everywhere. The world’s most powerful investment bank is a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money.

And that’s just Taibbi’s opening lines. I’ve written (herehere and here) and read about the Goldman Sachs connections to our current financial woes. But Taibbi shows that economic destruction on a massive scale is Goldman Sachs’ historical MO and even now it is actively working to set up its next round of victims and this time their funnel will be in everyone’s pocket. More from The Great American Bubble Machine:

…any attempt to construct a narrative around all the former Goldmanites in influential positions quickly becomes an absurd and pointless exercise, like trying to make a list of everything. What you need to know is the big picture: If America is circling the drain, Goldman Sachs has found a way to be that drain – an extremely unfortunate loophole in the system of Western democratic capitalism, which never foresaw that in a society governed passively by free markets and free elections, organized greed always defeats disorganized democracy.

The bank’s unprecedented reach and power have enabled it to turn all of America into a giant pump-and-dump scam, manipulating whole economic sectors for years at a time, moving the dice game as this or that market collapses, and all the time gorging itself on the unseen costs that are breaking families everywhere – high gas prices, rising consumer-credit rates, half-eaten pension funds, mass layoffs, future taxes to pay off bailouts. All that money that you’re losing, it’s going somewhere, and in both a literal and a figurative sense, Goldman Sachs is where it’s going: The bank is a huge, highly sophisticated engine for converting the useful, deployed wealth of society into the least useful, most wasteful and insoluble substance on Earth – pure profit for rich individuals.<

They achieve this using the same playbook over and over again. The formula is relatively simple: Goldman positions itself in the middle of a speculative bubble, selling investments they know are crap. Then they hoover up vast sums from the middle and lower floors of society with the aid of a crippled and corrupt state that allows it to rewrite the rules in exchange for the relative pennies the bank throws at political patronage. Finally, when it all goes bust, leaving millions of ordinary citizens broke and starving, they begin the entire process over again, riding in to rescue us all by lending us back our own money at interest, selling themselves as men above greed, just a bunch of really smart guys keeping the wheels greased. They’ve been pulling this same stunt over and over since the 1920s – and now they’re preparing to do it again, creating what may be the biggest and most audacious bubble yet.

In brutal detail, Tiabbi lays bare Goldman Sachs’ role in five bubbles that have rocked the US economy from 1929 to 2009 –

#1 – The Great Depression (of 1929)
#2 – Tech Stocks
#3 – The Housing Craze
#4 – $4 a Gallon
#5 – Rigging the Bailout

And then he goes on to explain their involvement in the bubble that’s about to start:

#6 – Global Warming
…If cap-and-trade succeeds, won’t we all be saved from the catastrophe of global warming? Maybe – but cap-and-trade, as envisioned by Goldman, is really just a carbon tax structured so that private interests collect the revenues. Instead of simply imposing a fixed government levy on carbon pollution and forcing unclean energy producers to pay for the mess they make, cap-and trade will allow a small tribe of greedy-as-hell Wall Street swine to turn yet another commodities market into a private tax-collection scheme. This is worse than the bailout: It allows the bank to seize taxpayer money before it’s even collected.

If you haven’t realized it already, this is a must read of the highest order. And it should be read in its complete form to get the full effect. For me to snip and paste more would not do it justice. Warning it will leave you shocked and more than a little sick to your stomach. The complete article. And by the way, the global warming part is at the end, but please read through to get there.


[Crossposted in July 2009 at No Quarter]

Major h/t to “oowawa” for the link to Taibbi’s article and to “BGD” for the link to the video and No Quarter’s American Girl in Italy (aka Sara in Italy) has a great post including an excellent video explanation of “cap-and-trade” by the eco geekhere.



1 Comment

  1. Greed….somehow it is the heart of most of mankind. The money changers at the temple that Jesus found and lost his temper, spilling their valuables on the steps and preaching against greed….was one or more of those money changers Goldman Sachs pre-cursers?

    Probably. Awaken citizens…it is your life to run not ruin…be educated, don’t buy into bull crap. There is no easy money unless there is greed in your heart.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s