Huntsman on past cap-and-trade support: Everyone was doing it

Republican White House hopeful Jon Huntsman has found a way to explain his embrace of cap-and-trade when he was governor of Utah: Everyone was doing it.

Huntsman backed cap-and-trade last decade as a way to curb greenhouse gas emissions, but distanced himself from it in an interview Wednesday, casting it as a policy solution from another era.

“Every governor was talking about dealing with emissions back many, many years ago only to find that with the economic implosion, we can't afford anything that is going to put any kind of hamper on economic growth. So cap-and-trade is not something that is viable today,” Huntsman told Fox News.

“Everybody talked about it. At least a lot of people did, consulting with CEOs, consulting with all the experts. Everyone took it seriously,” he said.

As governor, Huntsman signed on in 2007 to a program among Western states and Canadian provinces called the Western Climate Initiative aimed at cutting regional greenhouse gas emissions 15 percent by 2020.

The initiative’s policies include a regional cap-and-trade system that was supposed to launch in 2012 but has withered, although California is still moving ahead with its emissions-trading plan that’s slated to begin next year.

But cap-and-trade has become politically toxic in GOP circles. Huntsman acknowledges global warming is under way but argues cap-and-trade isn’t the way to address it.

“We have another reality today and that's we've got to get on our feet economically and nothing can stand in the way of that,” he said Wednesday.

A group of northeastern states has an ongoing cap-and-trade system for power plants called the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, although New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) recently announced that he’s pulling his state out of the program.

Cap-and-trade legislation collapsed on Capitol Hill last year and won’t be revived any time soon.

Huntsman isn’t the only GOP White House hopeful who has changed his tune on climate change policy. Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty has reversed his decision to embrace cap-and-trade, which he supported while in office.

This post was updated at 5:02 p.m.