By: F. James Sensenbrenner, Jr.
October 21, 2009
With the health care debate grabbing most of the headlines, you may not have heard much about the energy war in Congress. A California-Massachusetts team of legislators is pushing expensive regulations on carbon emissions that would be paid for by the industries and consumers of the Midwest.
Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and John Kerry (D-Mass.) recently introduced a bill similar to legislation that has passed the House. Like its House counterpart, the bill would result in a steep tax on coal, America's most affordable and plentiful fuel source. Reps. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Edward Markey (D-Mass.) sponsored the House bill. It is no coincidence that they are also a California-Massachusetts duo.
Only 12 states use less coal as a percentage of electricity production than Massachusetts, which gets about 25% of its power from coal. Only three states use less coal than California.
Which states use coal? Michigan, Missouri, Minnesota, Iowa, Indiana, Kansas and Ohio use coal to generate more than 50% of their electricity. Wisconsin gets more than two-thirds of its electricity from coal.
How much would cap-and-tax cost you? The National Association of Manufacturers projects that nationwide cap-and-tax would cost each household an average of $1,248. But in Wisconsin, NAM found, cap-and-tax would cost each household more than $1,400.
After the Waxman-Markey bill passed the House, the National Mining Association produced a map that showed how cap-and-tax would impact individual states. States with the highest costs were shown in deep red; states with the lowest costs were shown in green. The result was striking. The map showed a deep sea of red, bracketed by a few green states on the West Coast and in the Northeast.
With costs like these for most of America, it is no surprise that a majority of people oppose this scheme. The opposition has led the bill's sponsors to attempt to rebrand their efforts. Instead of cap-and-trade, supporters of the Senate bill are calling their proposal "pollution reduction and investment." I think cap-and-tax is a more accurate and honest description.
A recent poll shows 65% of Americans want Congress to work on creating jobs. Cap-and-tax won't create jobs, despite a desperate insistence by the bill's supporters that government spending on so-called green jobs will stop the decline in employment that's miring our economy.
To understand the truth on green jobs, we need look no further than Spain. The Spanish government dumped $1.6 billion into green jobs last year and trumpeted 200,000 new jobs it said the subsidies created. But a study by an economist at Rey Juan Carlos University in Madrid showed that for every job created through green-job subsidies, up to 2.2 jobs were lost in other sectors. And Spanish taxpayers had to pay about $855,000 for each green job, most of which proved to be only temporary construction jobs. Spain's unemployment rate is currently above 18%.
Cap-and-tax isn't yet the law of the land, but carbon emissions fell 6% this year. How is this possible? It's a result of the recession. The Senate bill's goal is a 20% emission cut by 2020. As Kerry recently said: "We are effectively saying we need to go another 14%."
A bill like the one Kerry is pushing just might get us there. After all, a study of the House bill projected that it would cause 2.4 million job losses by 2030 and up to a 2.4% reduction in Gross Domestic Product. A prolonged recession of that magnitude likely would lead to the emissions cuts that Kerry is seeking.
This not-so-secret plan was spelled out in a report from a U.K. think tank. It advocated a "planned recession" to help meet steep carbon emission goals. The cap-and-tax bill that Democrats are pushing would have a similar effect, especially for those of us in the Midwest.
Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner of Menomonee Falls is the ranking Republican on the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming.