Project 21 New Visions

 

Deneen Borelli

Global Warming Policies Cool Minority Economic Engines


by Deneen Borelli (bio)

For someone once considered "our first black president," Bill Clinton seems to have particular disregard for the economic well-being of minorities when it comes to energy.

At a recent rally, the former Man from Hope said: "We just have to slow down our economy and cut back our greenhouse gas emissions 'cause we have to save the planet for our grandchildren."

Slowing down the economy won't hurt Clinton and Al Gore - his former vice president and self-appointed global warming czar - as it will hurt lower-income families, especially minorities.  With all the panic over indications the economy may already be slowing, why purposely make things worse?

But Bill Clinton is not alone.  The leading presidential candidates for both parties right now want more global warming regulation.  While claiming to be for the little guy, they ignore the dire consequences of increased unemployment and higher consumer prices for those already struggling.

In the Senate, the "America's Climate Security Act" (S. 2191), introduced by Senators Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and John Warner (R-VA), penalizes companies that emit greenhouse gases.  Called a  "cap-and-trade" program, it's basically a tax on fossil fuels.

According to Charles River Associates International (CRAI), S. 2191 would cost up to $6 trillion over 40 years.  Minority staffers with the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee report Senator Lieberman himself admits it would be "hard to imagine" his bill wouldn't cost industry and power companies "hundreds of billions of dollars to comply" with it.

That's not all.  CRAI also estimates up to 3.4 millions jobs may disappear by 2020 if global warming regulations are enacted. 

Rising fossil fuel costs are already driving jobs overseas.  Dow Chemical Company recently announced plans to build plants in Saudi Arabia and China that could someday rival petrochemical facilities on our Gulf Coast.  It's part of Dow's "asset-light" strategy of expanding its manufacturing capacity by partnering with overseas production partners with greater access to cheaper energy and fast-growing markets.

Then there's the fact that high energy prices disproportionately harm low- and fixed-income consumers.  A report by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office on cap-and-trade states "... most of the cost of meeting a cap on CO2 emissions would be borne by consumers, who would face persistently higher prices for products such as electricity and gasoline."  The report adds "... poorer households would bear a larger burden relative to their income than wealthier households would."

A Duke Energy analysis of S. 2191 predicts "power bills could increase by up to 53 percent when the legislation [becomes] effective in 2012."   That's an average.  In a coal-dependent state such as Indiana, customers could see up to a 94.9 percent increase in utility bills.

CRAI estimates the average American household living under S. 2191 will pay between $800 and $1,300 more per year to heat, cool and otherwise power their homes.  Bill Clinton can cover that much, but what about those living in poverty?  Those living below the poverty line are 24.3 percent black and 20.6 percent Hispanic - a figure higher than their percentages of the overall population.

Don't forget that higher fuel prices will affect other things, such as the cost of transporting food and other staples to market.  The price will be borne by consumers.

Affordable, plentiful and reliable energy is the foundation of our economy.  Rising energy costs will lower a standard of living that shouldn't be surrendered to unsubstantiated theories about climate change. 

If Bill Clinton's rhetoric about wanting to "slow down our economy" is realized, it will be painful to the most vulnerable.  This time, however, Bill won't be feeling their pain.

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Deneen Borelli is a fellow with the Project 21 black leadership network.  Comments may be sent to [email protected].

Published by The National Center for Public Policy Research. Reprints permitted provided source is credited. New Visions Commentaries reflect the views of their author, and not necessarily those of Project 21 or the National Center for Public Policy Research.


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