Waxman moving towards cap/trade compromise

Via The Washington Independent comes news that Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), Chairman of the House Energy Commerce Committee and lead author of cap and trade legislation pending in the House, is moving towards a substantial compromise on emissions targets and permit allocations.

At issue is what percentage (if any) of the "permits" allowing emissions will be given away to energy intensive industries at first. Waxman now seems willing to capitulate to at least one of industry's key demands: 40% of permits allocated to "local electricity distribution" companies and 15% directly to the hardest hit industries. Over time these numbers would gradually move towards zero.

Waxman's also reportedly willing to lower his emission reduction targets. The bill initially called for a 20% reduction by 2020; Waxman's now open to either 14% or 17%, depending on which report you believe. (Here and here.) The overall goal of 83% reductions by 2050 seems safe for now.

At first glance this seems like a big blow to environmentalists. But I'm not so sure--if the compromise will lead to the successful implementation of the cap-and-trade regulatory structure, it wouldn't seem too hard to tweak the target numbers in future years. In any event, the bill was stalled with the high targets, and this compromise seems more comprehensive than Waxman's last reported effort...