No matter how many times Congress debates it, and no matter how environmentalists couch it, cap-and-trade will do virtually nothing to stop global warming, and cap-and-trade, as Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.) said, is a tax, and a great big one. These are the fundamentals in the cap-and-trade debate, and Republicans must refocus on them.
We need to remind the American public, for example, that the 1,400-page Waxman-Markey monstrosity is a monument to big government that will make food, gasoline and electricity more expensive, increase mandates on small businesses, and increase the size and reach of the federal bureaucracy all while doing nothing to affect climate change.
The Kerry-Boxer legislation introduced Sept. 30 is, in many ways, worse than the Waxman-Markey bill. This reflects the attitude of one of the bills sponsors, who said recently that, because of the recession, businesses should be expected to make even more expensive emissions reductions. While its never a good time to pass a national energy tax, one would have thought that imposing such a tax during a recession is especially bad.
But this is precisely what the Democrats did. And as cap-and-trade becomes more and more unpopular, one finds any and all attempts to change the subject to issues that people actually care about: jobs, energy security, clean energy, national security. Environmentalists have created a whole new green lexicon to distract attention away from their big-government scheme. But such window dressing only obscures a stubborn fact: As Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.), chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, put it, Whether you call it a tax, everyone agrees that its going to increase the cost to the consumer.
Over the past week, many people have speculated about the potential for a grand Senate climate deal, tying cap-and-trade to the expansion of nuclear power and offshore drilling. Both policies make eminent sense and are key components of the Republican all-of-the-above energy policy. But tying those policies to a massive national energy tax makes no sense, which is why theres little hope for a deal so long as it involves cap-and-trade.
Its also prudent to question the sincerity of Democrats now speaking of the grand climate deal. For one, including nuclear power into cap-and-trade legislation tanked the McCain-Lieberman bill in 2005. Senate Environment and Public Works Chairman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) voted against that bill because of fairly mild provisions supporting nuclear. As she said in a floor statement at the time, Nuclear power is not the solution to climate change, and it is not clean. The nuclear industry has not solved its waste and safety problems. By subsidizing the creation of new nuclear plants, we are condoning the creation of more waste and turning a blind eye to the hazards associated with nuclear power.
Building more nuclear power plants and ending the de facto moratorium on offshore drilling, now imposed by the Obama administration, would create tens of thousands of jobs and make energy more secure and affordable for consumers. While Democrats often depict America as possessing very little of the worlds resources, a soon-to-be-released government report indicates that Americas combined recoverable natural gas, oil and coal endowment is the largest on earth.
But the Democrats want none of this and even if they agree to compromise for some of this, they will undermine the enormous economic benefits that come from developing these resources by taxing the energy that Americans use. Remember that the point of cap-and-trade is to make these resources more expensive, and ultimately to drive these resources to extinction, so conjoining them is an exercise in contradiction.
This is the debate now before the Senate. The Democrats will continue to obscure their intention to make energy more expensive by talking of clean energy and green jobs. In turn, they will provide some token, and assuredly unsatisfactory, compromise on offshore drilling and nuclear power, all in the vain hope of getting the 60 votes that they failed to get in 2003, 2005 and 2008. They failed then and they will fail again because, whether gilded with shiny green rhetoric or hidden behind empty compromises, cap-and-trade is still a great big tax that will destroy jobs, make energy more expensive and detract from Americas national security.
Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) is ranking member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.