Beloit College Magazine

Beloit College Magazine

Spring 2010 (March 2010)

Can Markets Save the Earth?

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March 2010

Power PlantIn April, Beloit College will mark the 40th Earth Day by hosting a public forum on greenhouse gas regulation.

“Can Markets 'Save the Earth?' An Earth Day Forum on Carbon Taxes and Carbon Permits” will feature four Beloit alumni uniquely prepared to explore the intricacies of this issue.

“The poor of the world need increased economic opportunities—and increased energy supplies to power these opportunities—yet while growing the economy and growing energy production, we also need to decrease human-generated emissions of greenhouse gases,” notes Associate Professor of Economics Warren Bruce Palmer, the forum’s organizer. “Allowing greenhouse gases to grow unchecked risks changing the climate in ways that harm our well-being.” He adds that both international and domestic policymakers have failed to enact effective legislation regarding this issue.

According to Palmer, while the price system is generally accepted as the best way to regulate carbon emissions, a great deal of debate continues about whether carbon taxes or carbon permits are the better method to price carbon into the economy. Carbon taxes tax energy sources in proportion to their carbon content, while carbon permits require energy suppliers to possess permits to match their carbon output.

Beloit College Trustee Gene Zeltmann’62, former CEO and president of the New York Power Authority and past chairman of the Electric Power Research Institute, will moderate the forum.

John Sall’71, co-founder and executive vice president of SAS Institute Inc., a business analytics software and services company, will argue in favor of using carbon taxes to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. Sall traces his environmental concerns back to his college days when he lived in Beloit’s Ecology House. He has been actively involved with The Nature Conservancy since the mid-1990s and currently chairs the audit committee of its board of directors. He recently joined The National Council of Environmental Defense.

William M. Ferretti’76, vice president of the Chicago Climate Exchange (CCX), will present the case for using tradable carbon permits to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. Founded in 2003, the CCX calls itself “the world’s first—and North America’s only—active, voluntary, legally binding, integrated trading system” to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Robert Young’70, president of Central Vermont Public Service Corporation, will serve as discussant. CVPS, the largest electric power utility in Vermont, supplies some of the nation’s least carbon-intensive electricity, relying on hydropower and nuclear power for most of its supply. It also has an innovative program promoting “cow power”—electricity from generators that run on methane from cow manure.

“Given the enormity and complexity of the problem, the debate over the best policy to limit climate change will long continue,” writes Palmer. “The Beloit College Earth Day Forum gives the College community the opportunity to participate in and contribute to this debate.”

The forum is slated for Thursday, April 22, at 7:30 p.m., in the Moore Lounge in Pearsons Hall.

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