GIBSON: I'm sort of sorry Chris Dodd isn't here because he's talked a lot about a carbon tax in this election. Al Gore favors a carbon tax.
None of you have favored a carbon tax. Is it a bad idea, or is it just so politically unpalatable that you guys don't want to propose it?
RICHARDSON: Can I answer?
You know, I was energy secretary. It's a bad idea. Because, when you have a carbon tax, first of all, it's not a mandate. What you want is a mandate on polluters, on coal companies, on those that pollute, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by a certain target.
Under my plan: 30 percent by the year 2020; 80 percent by the year 2040. It takes international leadership. The better way to do it is through a cap-and-trade system which is a mandate.
Furthermore, a carbon tax, that's passed on to consumers, that's passed on to the average person, that's money you take out of the economy.
RICHARDSON: So it's a bad idea.
Cap-and-trade is a mandate, but it's also going to take presidential leadership. It's going to take all of us here, every American, you know, to think more efficiently about how we transport ourself, what vehicles we purchase, appliances in our homes.
It's going to take a transportation policy that doesn't just build more highways. We have to have commuter rail, light rail, open spaces. We've got to have land-use policies where we improve people's quality of life.
GIBSON: Senator Obama?
OBAMA: Well, I agree with Bill that I think a cap-and-trade system makes more sense. That's why I proposed it: because you can be very specific in terms of how we're going to reduce the greenhouse gases by a particular level.
Now, what you have to do is you have to combine it with a 100 percent auction. In other words, every little bit of pollution that is sent up into the atmosphere, that polluter is getting charged for it.
OBAMA: Not only does that ensure that they don't game the system, but you're also generating billions of dollars that can be invested in solar and wind and biodiesel.
I do disagree with one thing, though, that Bill said, and that is that on a carbon tax, the cost will be passed on to consumers, and that won't happen with a cap-and-trade.
Under a cap-and-trade, there will be a cost. Plants are going to have to retrofit their equipment. And that's going to cost money, and they will pass it onto consumers.
We have an obligation to use some of the money that we generate to shield low-income and fixed-income individuals from higher electricity prices.
But we're also going to have to ask the American people to change how they use energy. Everybody is going to have to change their light bulbs. Everybody is going to have to insulate their homes. And that will be a sacrifice. But it's a sacrifice that we can meet. Over the long term, it will generate jobs and businesses, and can drive our economy for many decades.
CLINTON: Charlie, let me make a connection here that I think is really important.
CLINTON: I think the economy is slipping toward a recession -- the unemployment figures on Friday hitting 5 percent, the $100 a barrel oil that we also hit this week, the fall of the dollar. There's a lot of pressures on middle-class families, and the kind of costs that they have to keep up with have all gone up astronomically.