- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 9, 2009

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

On July 24, Democratic Sens. Barbara Boxer of California and John Kerry of Massachusetts took to The Washington Post to attack former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin’s opposition to the Waxman-Markey cap-and-tax legislation and her overall energy philosophy.

Mrs. Palin correctly criticized the scheme presented in the legislation sponsored by Democratic Reps. Henry A. Waxman of California and Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts. By only citing a report from the left-of-liberal Center for American Progress, Mr. Kerry and Mrs. Boxer naively underestimate the effects the legislation will have on the American economy. Other, more mainstream organizations, such as the Brookings Institution and the Black Chamber of Commerce, disagree.

Waxman-Markey artificially creates competition between cheap, abundant energy and unreliable, expensive renewable forms, compelling utilities to use heavily subsidized, politically correct “renewable energy” while thousands who work producing traditional energy lose their jobs.

All the while, American industry will flee to other countries where they can power their assembly lines with cheaper energy. Because nearly four decades of obscene subsidies for wind and solar power haven’t worked, Waxman-Markey ups the ante and engages in societal re-engineering and fundamental restructuring of America’s energy supply.

According to the Energy Information Administration, wind and solar receive 55 times more in subsidies than coal and 100 times more than oil and natural gas. Yet today, wind and solar barely make up 1.5 percent of America’s electricity supply and 0.5 percent of the total U.S. energy supply, while 85 percent of the U.S. energy supply originates from fossil fuels. These figures make clear to what extent the Waxman-Markey bill must give a leg up to wind and solar to force their success. The simple fact is that these so-called industries would not survive without mandates and subsidies.

Mrs. Boxer and Mr. Kerry seem ignorant of the fact that wind and solar fail to power America’s trucks, planes, trains and ships. In reality, wind and solar will not displace the energy necessary for moving people and products around the country.

Nevertheless, while mocking Mrs. Palin’s good sense, they choose to advocate legislation and policies that will drive U.S. dependence on foreign oil through the roof. The senators seem oblivious to the fact that nearly one-fourth of every barrel of oil goes to producing the asphalt on which their electric cars drive, the lubricants that enable the blades on their windmills to spin and the plastics that are used in the medical supplies, fabrics and raw materials Americans cannot live without.

In 1995, Congress passed legislation to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to oil and gas development. In fact, legislation to open ANWR has passed the House 10 times and the Senate once. Unfortunately, President Clinton vetoed that attempt, and today, Americans fail to enjoy the hundreds of millions of barrels a year that would be flowing had the bill become law.

Now, for the first time since 1982, we have the ability to develop our offshore resources. In 2008, President George W. Bush let the Executive Moratorium on Outer Continental Shelf Development expire, and Congress did not renew the legislative moratorium. However, the Obama administration and the radical environmentalists have other plans, and a de facto moratorium remains.

American energy marvels such as the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System (TAPS) are the real drivers of the American economy. TAPS didn’t require a government mandate; it required the federal government to get out of the way. This pipeline would never be built today. TAPS was successful only because of the oil embargo and, more significantly, because the legislation curtailed the ability of environmentalists to file lawsuits to block the project — an effort in which, unfortunately, they have become well versed. This summer, as TAPS prepares to send its 16 billionth barrel to the consumer, I am reminded that Sarah Palin is correct and Mr. Kerry and Mrs. Boxer are again on the wrong side of energy issues.

Healthy markets succeed when the federal government steps back, not when it picks winners and losers. If history has demonstrated anything, it’s that economies cannot be centrally planned by legislative bodies or bureaucrats — even though some in the majority party seemingly disagree. The market, coupled with the ingenuity and enduring spirit of hardworking Americans, always wins.

Cheap energy means a strong economy. This is something we’ve learned firsthand in Alaska. In our villages, where gasoline or heating oil can top $7 a gallon, jobs are hard to come by.

The senators write that climate legislation will “ensure that the United States — not China or India — will be the leading economic power in this century.” But the truth is, they already are.

The United States was the dynamic economic power in the 20th century without cap-and-trade. I know Mrs. Palin and I are both committed to ensuring that America’s economic dominance continues into the 21st century rather than embarking blindly down the road to serfdom offered in Waxman-Markey and by the aforementioned senators from Massachusetts and California.

Rep. Don Young is an Alaska Republican.

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