Jon Huntsman's Flip-Flop on Cap-and-Trade

Cap and trade used to be cool—now it isn’t. Howard Kurtz on Jon Huntsman’s explanation for his reversal.


Jon Huntsman has come up with a novel explanation for his decision to run away from the cap-and-trade policy he once embraced:

It used to be popular, and now it’s not.

“Cap and trade is something that every governor looked at, every governor consulted CEOs and the experts on many years ago,” the newly minted presidential candidate told Fox’s Sean Hannity in an interview that aired Wednesday. Sitting in the shadow of the Statue of Liberty, Huntsman said: “In today’s economic environment, there’s no way we should be promoting anything that stands in the way of economic and business recovery, and that would.”

Nor was this an off-the-cuff response to Hannity’s declaration that cap and trade, like civil unions for gays, is not a conservative position. The former Utah governor also told Fox & Friends that “many, many years ago ... everybody talked about it…Everyone took it seriously.”

Seriously? That’s his explanation? That was then, this is now? If cap and trade is such a flawed policy, wouldn’t it have hampered economic growth back then as well?

The problem for Huntsman is that cap and trade is about as popular as Obamacare in GOP circles. Tim Pawlenty, another ex-governor who backed cap and trade, has repeatedly apologized for what he calls a “mistake.”And what did Huntsman say “many, many years ago”—actually in 2008—about the policy?

“In order to get to the heart and soul of carbon emission—which is a problem, because it leads to polluted skies and air quality problems and climate change—we must put a value on carbon. Until we put a value on carbon, we’re never going to be able to get serious about dealing with climate change longer term. Now putting a value on carbon either suggests that you go to a carbon tax or you get a cap and trade system under way.”

That was a candid answer. Since then, the conservative winds have shifted, at least for Republicans with White House aspirations.