What Happened To Cap-And-Trade?

Theda Skocpol took an extremely close look (pdf) at what went wrong during efforts to develop cap-and-trade legislation in 2009 and 2010. Philip Bump summarizes:

Skocpol’s thesis for why cap-and-trade failed can be simplified to a few points: failed organizing efforts by advocates for the policy, an attempt to craft legislation behind closed doors at a moment that demanded transparency, and (of course) massive shifts in public opinion due to the concerted efforts of opponents of action.

David Roberts chimes in:

I couldn’t help smiling when, after sifting through various post-mortems on the cap-and-trade battle, Skocpol concluded that “each player tended to blame others and conclude that whatever approach he/she/it favored all along would be the best one to double-down on moving forward.”

So true. That’s a perpetual danger in these kinds of retrospectives (a danger to which Skocpol is as vulnerable as anyone). The cap-and-trade battle is like the fabled elephant and the blind men. Everyone came to it from a different perspective, saw different things, and learned different lessons. The way it looked to a Waxman staffer is very different from how it looked to an oil executive or an enviro leader. Looking back, it’s easy to project whatever you want to see onto it. Many people have.