Senate Democrats Seek to Change Cap-and-Trade Debate from Energy to Jobs
by Caroline May
Senate Democrats are considering yet another global warming bill, optimistic that – despite the current economic malaise – a better sales pitch will increase support for their restrictive energy proposals. The legislation's sponsors, Senators John Kerry (D-MA) and Barbara Boxer (D-CA), thus have dubbed their supposed antidote to climate change the "Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act" of 2009.
Though the Senators' rhetoric assures economic reward and national strength, Pete Townsend's words best describe the Senate proposal's similarity to the House's: "Meet the new boss, same as the old boss!"
Indeed, that old boss, the House's Waxman-Markey bill, has been exposed by groups across the ideological spectrum as an initiative that will provide little more than economic hardship in exchange for limited environmental gain – at best, lowering temperatures mere hundredths of a degree by 2050.1
Such legislation, at the expense of prosperity, is not popular. A June Rasmussen Reports national survey showed that 42% of Americans polled said Waxman-Markey would hurt the economy; only 19% believed it would help.2
The two bills' similarity is undeniable. Both will institute a national cap and trade program focused on progressively reducing carbon emissions from the combustion of fossil fuels 83% below 2005 levels by the year 2050.3 Though in many ways its mandates are indistinguishable from the House version, the Kerry-Boxer bill is actually more restrictive in the early years of the program, calling for a harsher emissions reduction target of 20% by 2020, as opposed to the 17% demanded by Waxman-Markey.4
Facing an uphill battle, Senate Democrats since have embarked on a re-branding campaign that conceals the economic truth of their environmental goals.
While the very name of the Senate bill – with its strategic emphasis on jobs and power – screams Madison Avenue, the more significant shift in language is the change in term from "cap and trade" to "pollution reduction and investment." John Kerry attempted to clarify the alteration for reporters, saying, "I don't know what 'cap and trade' means. I don't think the average American does… This is not a cap-and-trade bill, it's a pollution reduction bill."5 The public, however, is not ignorant. The more it learns about the plan – regardless of how it is labeled – the more it understands that such a system constitutes a massive tax. President Barack Obama himself has admitted as much.
In a January 2008 interview with the San Francisco Chronicle, Obama explained his plan to lower carbon emissions by raising prices. "Under my plan of a cap-and-trade system, electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket," said the then-candidate. He went on to say, "Coal-powered plants, you know… whatever the industry was, they would have to retrofit their operations. That will cost money. They will pass that money on to consumers."6
While the words Kerry and Boxer use may imply that they are seeking to "protect the planet for the next century" in an economically-sound manner, the fact remains that this iteration of Waxman-Markey maintains the same "cap-and-trade" energy-rationing scheme the President heralded for increasing costs.7
The sponsors' obfuscation regarding the pecuniary consequences of their bill may be commercially savvy, but it is downright disgraceful at a time when Americans are fretting about their individual financial security. For all the talk that "green energy" and "green jobs" will result in an economic boon, it is estimated that implementing restrictive energy policies will cause the cumulative gross domestic product (GDP) to decrease about $9.4 trillion between 2012 and 2035.8 Further, "green jobs" notwithstanding, job loss estimates from the ensuing economic decay are as high as 1.9 million in 2012 and 2.5 million by 2035.9
Economic decline could, indeed, reduce U.S. carbon emissions – a fact obviously not lost on Senator Kerry. Upon releasing his bill, the Massachusetts Senator, attempting to minimize the large task associated with limiting greenhouse gas output, said to Congress Daily, "Let me emphasize something very strongly… The United States has already this year alone achieved [emphasis added] a 6% reduction in emissions simply because of the downturn in the economy…"10
With the U.S. unemployment rate already standing at 10.2%, America can't afford any more of Kerry's brand of achievement.11
Caroline May is a policy analyst at the National Center for Public Policy Research.
1 Chip Knappenberger, "Climate Impacts of Waxman-Markey (the IPCC-based arithmetic of no gain)," Master Resource, May 6, 2009, available at http://masterresource.org/?p=2355 as of November 6, 2009.
2 "42% Say Climate Change Bill Will Hurt The Economy," Rasmussen Reports, June 30, 2009, available at http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/politics/current_events/environment_energy/
42_say_climate_change_bill_will_hurt_the_economy as of November 6, 2009.
3 "Energy and Commerce Committee Passes Comprehensive Clean Energy Legislation," Office of Representative Henry Waxman, May 21, 2009, available at http://waxman.house.gov/News/DocumentPrint.aspx?DocumentID=129701 as of November 6, 2009.
4 Darren Samuelsohn, "Boxer, Kerry Set to Introduce Climate Bill in Senate," The New York Times, September 28, 2009, available at http://www.nytimes.com/cwire/2009/09/28/28climatewire-boxer-kerry-set-to-introduce-climate-bill-in-43844.html as of November 6, 2009.
6 "Pence claims that Obama said energy costs will skyrocket with a cap-and-trade plan," St. Petersburg Times: PolitiFact, June 10, 2009, available at http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2009/jun/11/mike-pence/pence-claims-obama-said-energy-costs-will-skyrocke/ as of November 6, 2009.
7 Darren Samuelsohn, "Boxer, Kerry Set to Introduce Climate Bill in Senate," The New York Times, September 28, 2009, available at http://www.nytimes.com/cwire/2009/09/28/28climatewire-boxer-kerry-set-to-introduce-climate-bill-in-43844.html as of November 6, 2009.
8 David Kreutzer, Ph.D., Karen Campbell, Ph.D., William W. Beach, Ben Lieberman and Nicolas Loris, "The Economic Consequences of Waxman-Markey: An Analysis of the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009," The Heritage Foundation, August 6, 2009, available at http://www.heritage.org/Research/EnergyandEnvironment/cda0904.cfm as of November 6, 2009.
10 Nick Loris, "John Kerry: If You Enjoyed This Year's Recession, Just Wait for Cap and Trade," The Foundry: The Heritage Foundation, October 5, 2009, available at http://blog.heritage.org/2009/10/05/john-kerry-if-you-enjoyed-this-year's-recession-just-wait-for-cap-and-trade/ as of November 6, 2009.
11 Christopher S. Rugaber, "Jobless rate tops 10 pct. for first time since '83," Associated Press, November 6, 2009, available at http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5gNiyJ905Ho0Ur96V2TQhsBX19lGwD9BQ5ECO0 as of November 6, 2009.
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