Democrats’ Cap and Tax rush job: all economic pain, no climate gain

The Obama administration and the Democratic leadership are attempting to push through global warming cap-and-trade legislation as quickly as possible, and for good reason: The more the public learns about what is in the bill, the more likely they are to oppose it.

The Waxman-Markey bill is the latest incarnation of costly cap-and-trade legislation that will have a devastating impact on the economy, cost millions of American jobs, push jobs overseas and drastically increase the size and scope of the federal government. Or, as a recent Washington Post editorial put it, the bill “contains regulations on everything from light bulb standards to the specs on hot tubs, and it will reshape America’s economy in dozens of ways that many don’t realize …”

Of the analyses conducted thus far on Waxman-Markey, the numbers are similar to what we have witnessed before in the way of higher energy prices at the pump and higher electricity prices in our homes, as well as deep cuts in our GDP. In a recent study conducted for the National Black Chamber of Commerce, CRA International found that Waxman-Markey will destroy 2.3 to 2.7 million jobs in each year of the policy through 2030, increase electricity rates by 45 percent, and impose a gas tax of nearly 60 cents.

There is also little question that Waxman-Markey will hinder U.S. competitiveness, pushing American jobs overseas where environmental regulations are much more lenient. Consider, for example, that developing nations such as China and India have little interest in a self-imposed tax on their economies. New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, a favorite of the left, recently pointed out that, over the past 10 years, China doubled its emissions and said the trend will continue.

“In January, China announced that it plans to continue its reliance on coal as its main energy source and that to feed its economic growth it will increase coal production 30 percent by 2015,” Krugman wrote. “That’s a decision that, all by itself, will swamp any emission reductions elsewhere.” In other words, even if the United States passed a mandate to reduce carbon emissions, which would impose a high cost to consumers and our economy, the result would be all economic pain and no climate gain.

Next, consider that regardless of whatever comes out of the House, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Senate Democratic leaders are already vowing to write an even costlier bill. In an interview with Politico last week, Sen. Boxer said, “You might see a little bit of a stronger bill come out of our committee,” and, “You’ll see some refinements and changes and tweaks.”

Just what these “refinements and changes and tweaks” amount to is anyone’s guess, because this year Sen. Boxer has failed to hold a single legislative hearing on climate change.

Now for the good news: I have been battling global warming alarmism since 2003, when I became chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee. It has been a lonely battle at times, but it now appears that many of my colleagues are waking up to the reality of cap-and-trade legislation. In 2003, only a few of my colleagues joined with me in speaking out against McCain-Lieberman. Then in 2005 a few more joined me and in 2008 an overwhelming number of senators took to the Senate floor to stand up against what would have been the largest tax increase in American history.

Now, just a year later and with the economy in a deep recession, it is hard to believe that many more senators would dare vote in favor of legislation that would not only increase the price of gas at the pump, but cost millions of American jobs, create a huge new bureaucracy and raise taxes by record amounts.

Further, outside of the Beltway, momentum is also growing on the left against cap-and-trade legislation. For example, global warming alarmist James Hansen, in rather blunt remarks, said, “Cap-and-trade is the temple of doom. It would lock in disasters for our children and grandchildren. Why do people continue to worship a disastrous approach? Its fecklessness was proven by the Kyoto Protocol.”

Another icon on the left, Ralph Nader, put his opposition this way: “I’m really astonished, because I would have thought they would have gone for a carbon tax. I mean, it’s [cap-and-trade] not going to work. It’s too complex. It’s too easily manipulated politically.”

Instead of passing job-killing government mandates, we should rally around a comprehensive energy policy that encourages development of all domestic sources of energy — a policy that will strengthen America’s energy security and grow our economy. That policy should include wind, solar, and geothermal, but it should also include natural gas, clean coal and nuclear power. This offers a clear path forward to America’s energy future, where we can harness the power of new technology and innovation to create jobs and restore America’s economic leadership throughout the world.

Inhofe is the ranking member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.