President Obama’s anti-oil cap-and-trade legislation that would effectively levy a carbon-emissions tax on businesses and on all Americans will likely be one of the first casualties of his liberal agenda.
But its Republican opponents won’t kill it. A growing army of Democratic lawmakers, largely from the Midwest, where the economy depends heavily on coal-fired power plants and factories, are turning against it - perhaps enough to prevent his climate-change plan from even reaching a vote in Congress.
“It is gradually dawning on Washington that cap-and-trade legislation won’t pass anytime soon - certainly not this year, and probably not next year either,” writes William Galston, former chief domestic policy adviser in the Clinton White House.
No region of the country has been hit harder in this recession than the Midwest, and cap-and-trade would deal it a second body blow. “It is hard to imagine Midwest Democrats voting for cap-and-trade in current economic circumstances, and perhaps not in any economic circumstances,” Mr. Galston wrote on the New Republic’s Web site last week.
Recent polls show Americans are now much more willing to put environmental initiatives on the back burner if they would undermine or impede economic growth.
For the first time in the Gallup Poll’s history of asking Americans “about the tradeoff between environmental protection and economic growth, a [51 percent] majority of Americans say economic growth should be given priority, even if the environment suffers to some extent,” the polling organization reported last week.
The controversial cap-and-trade system for auctioning permits to emit greenhouse gases was spawned by the global-warming movement to impose draconian, government-mandated costs on the use of fossil fuels to pay for research into alternative-energy technology.
The administration is counting on the $629 billion in revenues from cap-and-trade to not only pay for this research that is years in the making but also to pay for Mr. Obama’s middle-class tax cuts after 2010.
Supporters still insist the cap-and-trade system is not a tax cut but a pricing mechanism for emission permits.
Don’t believe it. This is how Rep. John B. Larson of Connecticut, House Democratic Caucus chairman, put it during a Ways and Means Trade subcommittee hearing on the climate-change legislation: “We’re going to be paying taxes - higher taxes - one way or the other. Is there anyone on the panel that would disagree that this issue, if we’re to combat it forthrightly and level with the American people, that this doesn’t concern taxation? I think it’s a matter of leveling with the American people and getting beyond the nonsense. This is about taxing, and this is going to be about stepping up to the plate.”
The environmental lobby is in full control of administration energy policy, and, from the start, it has aimed to bring down the oil and coal industries by increasing regulations and taxes. Mr. Obama’s $4 trillion budget is filled with anti-fossil-fuel provisions that will weaken our economy, drive up energy costs and kill high-paying jobs these industries create - making us more dependent on foreign oil.
The $629 billion that its cap-and-trade scheme will raise over 10 years “will crush American competitiveness by penalizing all companies that emit carbon as a byproduct of manufacturing. Every family in America will pay this, on average, $100 billion tax every year in higher energy prices,” says Americans for Tax Reform.
When the price of regular gasoline hit $4 a gallon last year, there were calls for lifting restrictions on further exploration and drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, and the Bush administration complied. But the Obama gang killed that initiative as soon as it took over.
Worse, the administration used the budget to tax 25 percent of all oil production and 15 percent of all natural-gas production in the Gulf that will drive up gas prices at the pump and eventually reduce jobs in the Gulf states during a time of rising unemployment.
Typically, though, Democratic leaders in Congress are not willing to abide by the same environmental costs and mandates they want to impose on the rest of us.
Last month, the House of Representatives dropped its plan to make its offices “carbon neutral,” breaking its solemn promise to cut greenhouse emissions to zero under its Green the Capitol program.
Today, the Capitol Power Plant’s smokestacks, located a few blocks from the Capitol, still belch out filthy pollutants from the 35 percent of coal it burns to heat the House offices and chambers. It accounts for the largest single source of air pollutants in the District.
We now live under Nancy Pelosi’s arrogant autocratic rule that tells us: “Do as we say, not as we do.”
Donald Lambro, chief political correspondent for The Washington Times, is a nationally syndicated columnist.