Carbon charges will hurt America

Global problems require global solutions. Unfortunately, supporters of unprecedented and severe new limits and fees on carbon dioxide emissions proposed for the United States fail to accept this common-sense truth. If they prevail, America will lose.

Enactment of overly stringent U.S.-only carbon restrictions would have a devastating impact on the American economy and American families, without achieving the goal of cutting global carbon emissions. Such regulations would have the effect of exporting U.S. jobs and importing carbon dioxide from around the world.

Congress is exploring various proposals calling for massive carbon emission reductions over a very short time in an effort to reduce global climate change, even though the effect of such reductions on our climate remains a matter of some dispute. Emissions of carbon dioxide – the same invisible gas we all emit from our lungs every time we exhale – have never been regulated by the federal government.

The new regulatory proposals are misguided because they would impose billions of dollars in carbon emissions fees on U.S. manufacturing plants and on everyone in our country who fills up a car or truck with gasoline or diesel fuel – without achieving any significant global emissions reductions.

The end result? Costly new regulations that incentivize  American-based manufacturers and other businesses to take their jobs abroad, as many have done already for a variety of other reasons. 

In addition, foreign competitors operating without carbon restrictions could drive U.S. companies out of business. This is not what our country needs at a time of nearly 10 percent unemployment.

Foreign facilities – without the level of emission controls already in place in the United States – would prosper at America’s expense and then generate more carbon and other greenhouse gases. The gases would go into the atmosphere shared by every nation on Earth. 

Carbon entering the atmosphere from India and China would simply replace carbon from Indiana and Chicago and other parts of the United States and have the identical environmental impact. There would be no reduction in global carbon emissions, just a reduction in the American standard of living – creating a situation of all pain and no gain for the American people. American workers, families and businesses would all pay a terrible cost, and our national economic strength and national security would be weakened. 

Tough carbon restrictions have been passed by the House. An attempt to pass less severe restrictions as part of a larger energy and climate change bill has stalled in the Senate after Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) withdrew from efforts to come up with a bipartisan bill. 

Instead of having Congress or the Environmental Protection Agency impose new carbon penalties, a better way forward would be to recognize steps already being taken to reduce carbon emissions and incentivize entrepreneurship that will advance all forms of energy.

The United States currently has in place what I call the 36-36 Plan. Federal fuel mileage standards approved for new cars and light-duty trucks require them to be able to go an average of 36 miles on a gallon of fuel by 2016. That alone will save billions of gallons of gasoline and diesel fuel each year, sharply reducing carbon emissions.

Additionally, a law enacted in 2007 will require American refiners to mix 36 billion gallons of biofuels (such as ethanol) with gasoline and diesel fuel each year by 2022. American refineries are expected to produce 180 billion gallons of gasoline and diesel fuel this year, so the law already in place would substantially cut the amount of petroleum used to fuel vehicles.

While challenges must still be overcome to achieve this level of biofuels, the federal government must be careful to ensure costly and counterproductive rules are not superimposed on these efforts.

Carbon fees and emission restrictions might sound good to some, but they are not a sound policy. They will do far more harm than good, attacking our economy just as it is climbing back from the depths of the Great Recession.

Instead of making a headlong charge into harmful, expensive and ineffective new carbon restrictions, our nation would be better off  giving America’s energy companies the freedom to produce more energy of all types – both fossil fuels and alternative fuels – as cleanly, efficiently, and affordably as possible in the United States.

Combine these actions with greater government investment in energy efficiency, conservation, pollution controls and energy research and you have an energy policy that will strengthen America and benefit all our people.

 Charles T. Drevna is president of the National Petrochemical & Refiners Association, which represents virtually all American oil refiners and petrochemical manufacturers.

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