- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 3, 2009


Cap-‘n’-trade redux?

Senate Environment and Public Works Chairwoman Barbara Boxer plans to outline her cap-and-trade legislation Tuesday morning.

Although specific points were not immediately available Monday afternoon, the guess from those in the energy industry is that the bill will look a lot like the ill-fated measure crafted by Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman and former Virginia Sen. John Warner.

The Lieberman-Warner bill called for a 65 percent reduction of greenhouse gases by 2050 by setting a cap on carbon emissions and allowing companies that break that cap to buy waivers from companies that emit less.

The measure survived a committee vote a year ago, but supporters failed to break a filibuster in the spring, and the measure died. Supporters and detractors have alternately deemed the 2008 exercise a successful dry run and a failed first push.

Senate Republicans and Democrats expect some type of climate bill to make the president’s desk this year.

Simply tax it

Proponents of establishing a tax on carbon pollution rather than a cap-and-trade system often say their plan would be easier to implement and the most transparent option for cutting pollution.

So who was that singing in harmony with longtime carbon-tax proponent Al Gore on Wednesday? Try Mr. Gore’s conservative home-state senator, Tennessee Republican Bob Corker.

“I wish we would just talk about a carbon tax, 100 percent of which would be returned to the American people. So there’s no net dollars that would come out of the American people’s pockets,” Mr. Corker said during an exchange with Mr. Gore during a hearing on climate change last week.

Mr. Gore, noting that both a former Reagan economic adviser and veteran comedian Billy Crystal support a carbon tax, said that though he also supports a cap-and-trade program, he still sticks by the carbon tax.

“I certainly believe that the simplest and easiest way to solve this problem would be a C02 tax that is 100 percent refundable,” the former vice president said.

Though the carbon-tax supporters are likely to be on the short end in this debate - a cap-and-trade measure in some form appears most likely to find its way to the president’s desk - they do have a strange, ragtag coalition.

NASA climate scientist James Hansen, a hero among environmentalists, also supports a carbon tax, which returns all the proceeds to taxpayers.

Backing up the call for a carbon tax, a coalition of lefty environmental groups:

“Helping consumers, especially in a time of economic trouble, should be our first and only priority for auction proceeds,” the environmentalists wrote in a Jan. 27 letter to Mr. Corker. New York’s Public Interest Research Group, Maryland Chesapeake Climate Action Network and Montana’s Environmental Information Center all signed on as unlikely allies with the Republican from Tennessee.

Tomato inflation

Think that E-10 gas blend you’ve been pumping into your car is the only thing driving up the price of Doritos? Try price-inflating tomato buyers at Kraft Foods and Frito-Lay, California prosecutors said last week.

Robert Watson, a former buyer for Kraft, pleaded guilty to accepting $158,000 in bribes, and James Wahl Jr., a purchaser for Frito-Lay, is expected to plead guilty to accepting $160,000 in bribes from a California tomato salesman from 1998 to 2008, Associated Press reported.

In return, Mr. Watson and Mr. Wahl fed information to SK Foods’ Randall Lee Rahal and then bought tomato products from the California company at inflated prices, prosecutors say. Thus, either the company or the consumers were gouged by the price-inflating scheme, an allegation with which corn-ethanol supporters are quite familiar.

Despite being an abundant bio-fuel much cleaner than oil, corn ethanol has been targeted in recent years by many environmentalists for helping drive up the price of food. Perhaps lawmakers from corn-growing states will be able to point the finger at tomato growers in California.

• Tom LoBianco can be reached at tlobianco@washingtontimes.com or 202/636-4891.

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