Lipstick on a Pig?

Buzzwords: Rephrasing Obama’s Lexicon, in today’s LA Times, describes Obama administration efforts to change the words describing its cap-and-trade proposal — “Words that have been vetted in focus groups and polls are seeping into the White House lexicon, while others considered too scary or confounding are falling away.” According to the LA Times:

Now when Obama talks about forcing companies to bid at auction for the right to emit greenhouse gases, he is more apt to mention “market-based” proposals and “clean energy jobs,” hinting at a rich new employment source.

Why the change? According to the same article, a recent survey tested 19 phrases and found “clean energy jobs” had the widest appeal; “cap-and-trade” ranked next to last.

Interestingly, substance does play a role.  A “strategist” is quoted as saying “the term ‘trade’ reminded people of the volatile stock market, which made them uneasy about the underlying policy.” People should be worried about the sophisticated financial instruments that are being proposed as part of cap-and-trade.  Having already lost their retirement funds due to Wall Street, Americans have good reason to worry about trusting the same people to protect them from climate change.

Putting lipstick on a pig?  Not really, since the Obama’s administration is at least proposing a relatively good form of cap-and-trade that includes auctioning emissions allowances rather than giving them away for free to the worst polluters.  As of last week, the administration remains committed to auctioning.

If you want to see lipstick on a pig, wait to see the “compromise” Waxman-Markey proposal that’s expected to be released later this week.  If press reports are correct and the proposal gives away a large proportion of allowances for free and relies on offsets rather than real emissions reductions from real coal plants, it’s going to take a lot of lipstick.

Last modified: May 12, 2009