It may surprise some that the GreenTrees representatives don’t see the incoming wave of Republicans to Congress as a definite killer for climate legislation.

“The concept of cap-and-trade as the world knows it now was borne out of the 1990 Clean Air Act reauthorization,” says Van Voorhis. “It was something pushed by President George HW Bush as a market way to deal with sulfur dioxide (SO2) compliance.”

Within five years of that program being implemented, acid rain in the United States was reduced by 70 percent. Sulfur dioxide is mostly generated at the utility level while the causes of carbon dioxide are much more varied and complicated.

Van Voorhis doesn’t claim that cap-and-trade is the cure-all for global warming. Instead, it’s “just a tool in the toolbox. And it’s an effective tool in some circumstances and there are other systems — fuel taxes or something else — could be implemented to handle those types of emissions.

“What’s never happened, from our viewpoint, is taxing emissions at a stationary level. If you tax something, it goes into the general treasury and you usually never reallocate those monies back out. There isn’t a whole lot of precedent showing that a tax has ever lowered emissions. A tax raises revenue and how that money is spent is the devil in the details.”

He believes cap-and-trade, in its classical sense, is still on Congress’ table.

“Where it was derailed was when the term ‘cap-and-tax’ was being bantered around. That’s actually true when the government says, ‘here’s the cap,’ and then provides an allowance so you can submit X amount per year. Originally, the government wanted to auction (such allowances) off 100 percent. So, it would have been basically a floating tax. Historically, allowances are given away for free, not auctioned. That is the classical brand of cap-and-trade.

“The challenge will be: is cap-and-trade such a divisive political issue that no one wants to touch it and should be left to the command and control of the EPA? Or, will it be rebranded and sent back to its more classical version? I’m not sure which way the wind is blowing on that. But, one thing is for sure, cap-and-trade is a Republican idea. The question is what will they do with it?”