Capping The Wild, Wild West’s Carbon Emissions

Posted on Thu 08/06/2009 by

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By Nick Loris

A look at the states hit hardest by the Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade policies immediately reveals a serious regional divide. The regions worst affected? About half the country.

Testifying before a hearing of the Congressional Western Caucus, The Heritage Foundation’s Senior Policy Analyst Ben Lieberman elaborated:

The disproportionate burden affects the West. Coal mining will be very hard hit, so Montana and Wyoming and other coal producing states will see this important sector of their economies shrink significantly. Western oil and natural gas producers will face higher costs as well. The promise of oil shale in Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming will never be realized under Waxman-Markey.”

Rather than expanding the nation’s energy possibilities, Waxman-Markey limits them by effectively walling off future access to the nation’s tremendous energy reserves in the West. Moreover, it mandates a wholesale transformation of the economy that cannot be done at low cost. The economic pain inflicted in the process will be staggering. Heritage analysis indicates that so-called green jobs created by this legislation will pale in comparison to those destroyed by the new regulatory scheme.

The costs Waxman-Markey places on the manufacturing sector are regionally concentrated as well. Lieberman explained:

Waxman-Markey also disproportionately burdens those states, especially in the Midwest and South, that still have a substantial number of manufacturing jobs to lose, as well as those that rely more heavily than others on coal for electric generation. In addition, because the bill raises energy costs, it hurts rural America much more than urban America.”

Lieberman pointed to data showing that farmers already spend on average 58 percent more on energy than do urban dwellers, and that disparity is likely to increase significantly under cap-and-trade.

And then there are the indirect costs. Waxman-Markey stands to fundamentally alter the rural lifestyle by distorting access to energy. Lieberman continued:

Agriculture is hard hit, and that particularly includes things common in parts of the West that are not well positioned to partially defray their costs by availing themselves of offsets, like ranching on federal lands, fruits and vegetables, and potatoes. And of course the long distances rural westerners have to drive in the course of each day means that gasoline and diesel prices hurt them more than other Americans.”

It’s little surprise, then, that the politicians pushing cap-and-trade policies represent Hollywood and Boston, two of the areas least likely to suffer significant costs from the proposed legislation. It’s easy to support economic devastation when you’re not paying for it.

For more, be sure to visit The Heritage Foundation’s 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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