Climategate has killed cap-and-trade
By Hoppy Kercheval
THE Washington power play to pass cap-and-trade legislation is deflating like a punctured balloon, but all the air is not out of it yet.
According to Reuters, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., a climate legislation supporter, told environmental leaders in a private meeting last week that “cap-and-trade is dead.” Graham has been working with John Kerry, D-Mass., and Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., for months to get a cap-and-trade bill through the Senate.
The House of Representatives approved a climate bill last June. But in recent months, climate fears have dissipated. Americans are much more worried about the economy – and less convinced that man’s activities are causing a global meltdown. A nationwide poll done by West Virginia’s Mark Blankenship Enterprises for the National Federation of Independent Businesses found that 52 percent of Americans oppose cap-and-trade, while 37 percent support the legislation.
Americans worry that cap-and-trade will drive up their energy bills, cost jobs, and limit economic growth. Those are additional burdens Americans want to avoid at a time when they continue to struggle with an uncertain economy and a slow recovery. Now Kerry-Graham-Liberman have developed a fallback position to try to revive the process. The New York Times reports the trio will propose “different types of limits for different sectors of the economy, beginning with electric utilities and then turning later to manufacturers such as chemical plants and pulp and paper mills.” Meanwhile, the pressure is building on the Environmental Protection Agency to back away from its attempt to regulate greenhouse gas emissions by fiat. The EPA is in the process of designating carbon and other greenhouse gases as pollutants, then using the Clean Air Act to reduce the amount of carbon released into the atmosphere.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Ark., is pushing a measure in the Senate aimed at stopping the EPA, and now there’s a similar measure in the House of Representatives. Two top House Democrats, Collin Peterson, D-Minn., and Ike Skelton, D-Mo., are co-sponsoring a resolution along with Jo Ann Emerson, R-Mo., to trump the EPA’s attempts to regulate carbon emissions.
Meanwhile, Sens. Jay Rockefeller and Robert Byrd of West Virginia have sent a letter to the EPA telling the agency not to proceed with greenhouse gas regulations. The letter, co-signed by a number of other energy state senators, says the EPA should leave it to the Congress to develop energy policy.
EPA has agreed to slow down its implementation of the Clean Air regulations on CO2 until at least 2011. Total regulation would not come until 2013. That gives the Democrats some breathing room until they have a better opportunity to pass climate legislation.
So here’s how the merry-go-round works:
The Obama administration and some members of Congress want cap-and-trade legislation to protect the environment and bring in billions of dollars in new revenue. When the bill starts to bog down, the EPA threatens to regulate carbon on its own. Proponents of cap-and-trade think the EPA action is enough to convince wavering lawmakers that it’s better for the Congress to pass cap-and-trade than live by the EPA’s decision.
It was a pretty smart maneuver, the ultimate Washington power play. And it could still work if lawmakers like Byrd and Rockefeller continue to see cap-and-trade as inevitable. But the advocates have misjudged by not considering the full impact of Climategate revelations or the obvious reluctance of the American people to further damage the economy and raise their own taxes to achieve the improbable goal of lowering the earth’s temperature by a fraction.