- The Washington Times - Friday, January 23, 2009

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

The U.S. Climate Action Partnership’s recent testimony before the House Energy and Commerce Committee is proof-positive that the energy companies have turned away from the market-based solutions for which they fought so strenuously the past eight years, and instead now fully embrace government-backed, cap-and-trade solutions. Cap-and-trade is an approach whereby a government or other authority sets a cap on the amount of pollutants that companies or other groups can emit, for which they get credits. If the companies need to exceed the cap and credits they have, they must buy credits from those who pollute less, constituting a trade.

Democrats brought in 13 witnesses from environmental groups and energy companies, all bent on selling their vision for legislation. What they described was a bill that would potentially allow the energy companies to receive billions in taxpayer dollars to research and develop cleaner energy technologies and possibly allow environmental groups to enrich themselves with their involvement in the cap-and-trade system through offsets. This would leave the American taxpayer with higher energy costs passed on to them by the energy industry in the short term — short meaning 10 to 20 years — and receiving virtually nothing in return during that period. “If the United States truly wants to be a world leader, we need real, market-based solutions, not self-serving, window-dressing attempts to get federal expenditures with no real steps forward in environmental reform and sacrifice,” noted Sen. Bob Corker, Tennessee Republican.

This latest proposal from the newly formed special-interest cabal also would have Congress establish a system in which greenhouse-gas-emitting companies can also rely on an international system of offsets for their pollutants — like getting away with a little more polluting in exchange for planting trees in South America. This is great for South America but, again, gives nothing to the American taxpayer. The ultimate goal of USCAP, according to the proposal on its Web site, is to form an international greenhouse-gas emissions market for “the post-2012 global framework.” International emissions-trading markets have always been problematic for the United States because it costs vastly more to decrease pollution here than it does in most other countries. For instance, if it cost China $2 to eliminate a ton of carbon-dioxide emissions from its energy production, it would likely cost the U.S. or other developed countries almost 10 times that much. Such markets were designed and created to exploit this fact, and it is the principal reason that President Bush rejected the ratification of the Kyoto Protocol.

Even President Obama has been hesitant on Kyoto. During his campaign, Mr. Obama’s position was that he “will build on our domestic commitments by creating a negotiating process that involves a smaller number of countries than the nearly 200 countries in the current Kyoto system.” (It is worth recalling that the U.S. Senate, by a 95-0 vote in 1997, passed the Byrd-Hagel Resolution stating the sense of the Senate was that the United States should not be a signatory to any protocol that did not include binding targets and timetables for developing nations as well as industrialized nations or “would result in serious harm to the economy of the United States.” The Clinton administration never submitted the protocol to the Senate for ratification.) While it is in one sense admirable that the energy business and environmental groups have shown a willingness to unite on creating Mr. Obama’s “green economy,” this proposal sounds a lot like giving American taxpayer’s‘ money away, and Congress should slow this process down rather than pass a bill that sounds good: Hey, if energy companies and environmental groups are both for it, it must be good, right? Wrong. It gives away even more of the nation’s ever-dwindling store.


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