“Cap and Trade.” A mom’s simple definition.

What does Cap and Trade mean? Where do the candidates say they stand on this particular issue and how do their words compare to their voting histories?

Any mom who used bingo chips to barter babysitting hours will understand this analogy immediately. Take a group of three moms. Give each, say 10 bingo chips. One chip = one hour of babysitting. If Dana asks Joanne to watch her boys for two hours, she must give Joanne two chips. Joanne can ask Tania to watch her girls for one hour but she will lose a chip to Tania.
Need more chips? Sacrifice some nights out, offer to watch some kids and rebuild your chip reserve
Of course, there are some differences between the babysitting chip method and the cap and trade system:
1) In general, when political wonks refer to Cap and Trade they are not organizing babysitting schedules. They are most likely talking about an approach used to control pollution by providing economic incentives for achieving reductions in the emissions of pollutants.

2) Babysitting chips cannot be bought and sold (despite my numerous attempts to do so). Within a cap and trade system, companies are given a limit–capped–on how much they can pollute the environment. Let’s say they are given a limit of 25. That’s 25 points or credits (or chips) a company can use. They are licensed accordingly. They will not be given more chips by the government. As they start to near their cap, they must buy credits (chips) from other companies who have an excess of credits. This is the “trade” part. Trading money for credits. How would a company have an excess of credits? By lowering their pollution output.  In effect, the buyer is paying a charge for polluting, while the seller is being rewarded for having reduced emissions by more than was needed. Thus, in theory, those that can easily reduce emissions most cheaply will do so, achieving the pollution reduction at the lowest possible cost to society.

Both candidates are in favor of a Cap and Trade policy. Read on.

This morning–as part of its two-week investigative report comparing the candidates’ answers to 14 Science Debate questions to their voting history–Popular Science takes a look at Climate Change. (Yesterday, the topic was Innovation.) Both candidates agree that global warming poses a serious threat and needs to be tackled immediately with carbon emission reduction. Both candidates want to institute a cap and trade system to make carbon reduction market friendly. But do they have the record to back it up?

In short: the answer is yes. Read the brief, but important, details here.

Tomorrow, PopSci will take a shot at Energy.