EPA Admits Cap And Trade Won’t Work

Posted on Thu 07/09/2009 by

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By Nick Loris

With the Waxman-Markey cap and trade bill passing the House on June 26th, we turn our attention to the Senate side of the debate. And it’s already starting:

Cabinet officials pressed President Barack Obama’s case for climate-change and clean-energy legislation at a Senate hearing on Tuesday as lawmakers clashed over whether a “cap-and-trade” system for cutting greenhouse gases would help the U.S. economy or hurt it.

“Denial of the climate-change problem will not change our destiny; a comprehensive energy and climate bill that caps and then reduces carbon emissions will,” said Energy Secretary Steven Chu in remarks before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

Mr. Chu and the secretaries of agriculture and interior joined the chief of the Environmental Protection Agency in making Mr. Obama’s case to generally supportive Democrats and skeptical Republicans.

Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma, the panel’s top Republican, said the cap-and-trade system would amount to the largest tax increase in American history, a statement echoed by many Republicans but shot down by Democrats including Sen. Barbara Boxer of California, who chairs the committee.

“There are no new taxes,” Ms. Boxer said Tuesday morning.”

No new taxes? What do you call the estimated $5.7 trillion from 2012-2035 (The Brookings Institute estimates $9 trillion from 2012-2050) of revenue the government expects to collect from this bill? That’s right, they call it climate revenue.

Moreover, it should be a red flag when the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) admits cap and trade won’t work. At yesterday’s hearing before the Senate Environment Public Works Committee,

EPA Administrator Jackson confirmed an EPA analysis showing that unilateral U.S. action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions would have no effect on climate. Moreover, when presented with an EPA chart depicting that outcome, Energy Secretary Steven Chu said he disagreed with EPA’s analysis.

“I believe the central parts of the [EPA] chart are that U.S. action alone will not impact world CO2 levels,” Administrator Jackson said.

Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) presented the chart to both Jackson and Secretary Chu, which shows that meaningful emissions reductions cannot occur without aggressive action by China, India, and other developing countries. “I am encouraged that Administrator Jackson agrees that unilateral action by the U.S. will be all cost for no climate gain,” Sen. Inhofe said. “With China and India recently issuing statements of defiant opposition to mandatory emissions controls, acting alone through the job-killing Waxman-Markey bill would impose severe economic burdens on American consumers, businesses, and families, all without any impact on climate.”

Getting China and India on board with a carbon reduction plan is highly unlikely. Even then, a multilateral approach does not guarantee a successful system or the ultimate goal of global temperature reduction. Take a look at Europe:

Cap-and-trade regimes have advantages, notably the ability to set a limit on emissions and to integrate with other countries. But they are complex and vulnerable to lobbying and special pleading, and they do not guarantee success.

The experience of the European Union is Exhibit A. Emissions targets were set too high. Too many pollution allowances were given away to industry. The value of a carbon credit plummeted. Companies made windfall profits by charging customers more for energy while selling allowances they didn’t need. And the Europeans have not had much success reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Disputes on the next round of reductions led to the creation of a two-tiered system to appease Eastern European countries fearful of the cost to their industries.”

Complex. Vulnerable to lobbying. Handouts to industry. Sound familiar?

For more, Check out Heritage’s Cap and Trade Rapid Response Page.

Contributing Author Nick Loris writes at The Heritage Foundation and he is a Research Assistant at The Heritage Foundation’s Roe Institute for Economic Policy Studies.

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