Cap and Trade is the proposed legislative act by which the United States government plans to establish a protocol for dealing with the economics surrounding the climate change market. The unit of commerce in the climate change market is known as a Carbon Financial Instrument Contracts (CFI), this is sometimes referred to as Carbon Credits. The CFI is a cash product that is used to measure the amount of Greenhouse Gases (GHG) “sequestered” or “offset”.
The term “sequestered” is used to infer the process of the removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and retention in a terrestrial system (e.g., forests and soils) or in a geologic formation and the term “offset” is used to represent the development of equivalent generated by qualifying mitigation GHG projects, such as, solar, wind, and other renewable energy protocols.
There are typically 8 types of greenhouse gasses, namely, Carbon Dioxide (CO2), Methane (CH4), Nitrous Oxide (N2O), Perfluorocarbons (PFCs), Hydrofluorocarbons (HFC’s), Sulphur Hexafluoride (SF6), Water Vapor (H2O), and Ozone(O3). The first six are deemed to be controllable, i.e., can be generated and controlled by human activities, and the latter two are classified as uncontrollable gasses, i.e., they occur naturally and not significantly affected by human activities. However, for simplicity all gasses are converted to their equivalent carbon component and measured by the CFI. Accordingly, a unit of CFI measures one metric tonne of Carbon Dioxide.
The CFI is traded in two major markets world wide, namely, the Chicago Climate Exchange (CCX) located in Chicago, Illinois and the European Climate Exchange (ECX) located in London, England.
The climate market was established as a consequence to the Kyoto Protocol that was used by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), aimed at combating global warming. The Protocol was initially adopted on December 11, 1997 in Kyoto, Japan and entered into force on February 16, 2005. As of November 2009, 187 states had signed and ratified the protocol. United States was the only major country in the world, not to ratify this protocol.
The ratification of the Kyoto Protocol allowed countries to set limits on the amount of carbon dioxide that signers to the protocol would agree to. This resulted in a cap of the amount of carbon dioxide that manufactures in the ratifying country was allowed to emit in the atmosphere. If in that country a particular manufacturer or company produced more carbon dioxide than they were allotted, the company would be required to pay a fine. Accordingly, companies had to adopt measures to reduce their emissions or if they could not do so, find alternatives such as bartering with other companies who produced less than they were required to produced. Consequently, the carbon trading market was born.
Since the early dawn of the market establishment, the European Climate Exchange (ECX) has grown exponentially while the Chicago Climate Exchange (CCX) has teetered on failing. Currently, a CFI is being traded on the CCX at $0.10 while the same CFI is traded on the ECX at over $23.00. Consequently, over 200 US based companies have moved their trading desk to London and are actively trading on the ECX. The CCX has just over 100 voluntary member traders on the market.
The Cap and Trade legislation, if passed, will result in the setting of limits on the amount of carbon dioxide that a company or manufacturer will be allowed to emit in the atmosphere within the United States of America. As was the case in the rest of the world with the ratification of the Kyoto Protocol, manufacturers and companies would adopt measures to reduce their fines and this would result in the vitalization of the local carbon trading market. This would also mean the significant provision jobs and the moving of the economic commerce back to the US from England.
Whether or not there is climate change, the economic commerce surrounding climate change is real and significant. For example, a 4-MW solar photovoltaic plant used to supply the power demands of 600 mid-sized homes in the Chicagoland area, would offset over 6,000 CFI per year or 180,000 CFI in 30 years. If this was traded on the ECX futures market, over $4,000,000 would be realized from the trade using today’s trading rate of $23.00. In other words, approximately $6,000 per household would be earned on the ECX as compared to the $3.00 per household that would be realized if traded on the CCX.
Therefore, whether or not global warming exist, there is money to be made in the climate change market and by not passing the Cap and Trade legislation we lock ourselves out of the market and allow the rest of the world to make profit unchecked. Consequently, we lose.