June 29, 2009
On Friday, the United States House of Representatives voted 219-212 in favor of a massive 1,300-page bill that seeks nothing less than to stop global warming in its tracks. In spite of intensive lobbying by the White House, 44 Democrats voted "no," but eight Republicans crossed the aisle, providing just enough votes to save this high-priority legislative milestone. The bill contains a comprehensive set of mandates that will force industries to restrict their consumption of fossil fuels, or else pay a penalty for excessive greenhouse gas emissions. Companies that consume less than the ceiling would get credits that could be traded with companies that consume too much. As the Washington Post explains,
The heart of the bill is a "cap" that would lower greenhouse gas emissions to 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020 and to 83 percent below those levels by 2050. It would enforce the cap by requiring many sources of such pollution, including power plants, factories and oil refineries, to amass buyable, sellable credits equal to their emissions.
What I'd like to know is where they got those numbers. Is there any scientific evidence that a 17 percent drop in emissions by the U.S. would have a noticeably different effect than a ten percent drop? And what if companies shut their U.S. factories and open up new ones across the border in Mexico? Has anyone thought about that? And how can we be so sure that investing in new technologies will bring about the planned increase in energy efficiency? As far as breaking the fossil fuel habit, why hasn't Obama spoken more openly about following the French example and going nuclear??? I suppose real-world conditions don't matter very much to social engineers who are busy dreaming of how to make our future better.
In essence, under this system, the government would set an arbitrary limit on air polluting emissions while permitting companies to sell or purchase allowances, providing some quasi-market flexibility. It would be prohibitively expensive, and if the measure gets final approval in the Senate, years from now people will be screaming bloody murder, asking how such a thing could have been done. (The Heritage Foundation prepared an estimate of what the net cost of the Waxman-Markey Climate Change Bill would be for each congressional district. For Virginia's Sixth Congressional District, they forecast an annual decline in Gross State Product of $585.72 over the period 2012-2035. Most other districts in Virginia would suffer even more.) For the record, I don't rule out the possibility that greenhouse gases may have a significant impact on global temperatures. I am, however, very skeptical about the efficacy of the national caps, especially given that China is a bigger greenhouse gas emitter than we are. In principle, something along the lines of the "cap and trade" regulatory mechanism might be appropriate, but only if it was geared to a market price system in which producers and consumers could plainly see the direct costs they would be bearing. Arbitrary limits on consumption on consumption are not only less efficient and less equitable, they are inimical to the very notion of a free society. For those who are curious about this "cap and trade" business, here are some useful background sources:
As for the politics, it seems that much of the opposition to the bill came from farm states. I was intrigued that the co-sponsors of the bill, Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-CA) and Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA), rejected Obama's idea to have the emission allowances be auctioned off to make possible tax cuts that would offset some of the pain. As with the health care debate, Obama is either unable or unwilling to spend much of his precious political capital, a striking contrast to his bold approach to policy-making.
On the Republican side, Minority Leader John Boehner at least put up a respectable fight, insisting that the provisions of the bill be explained on the House floor, so that the members would actually know what they were voting on. Somehow, Rush Limbaugh got mixed up on which of the eight Republicans defected on the cap and trade legislation, falsely including our own Congressman Bob Goodlatte, notwithstanding Goodlatte's strong denunciation of the measure. Fortunately, the word got around on Facebook pretty quickly, and Rush issued a correction.
In a statement to reporters today, President Obama voiced confidence that the Senate will likewise follow the "forward-looking" example set by the House. Sigh.....
* Hopefully the absurdity of that title will register with some people. As if...
I missed the President's prime-time interview/public forum with ABC anchorman Charlie Gibson last week, but you can watch the video at whitehouse.gov. Conservatives are outraged that ABC gave air time to Obama for what some saw as a blatant promotional "infomercial," and I would have to agree that Gibson made only the barest pretense of presenting both sides of the issue.
As a protest, a blogger in Cincinnati is launching a boycot of ABC and its sponsors; see Puma by design 001 and scroll to the middle. Hat tip to Stacey Morris.
This sounds like a fairly accurate description of me, though I'm probably more of a free-market booster than it implies. Also, I don't necessarily dislike hippies, some of whom might fit the description of "Crunchy Conservative."
Tax cuts, less regulation, family values -they're all good to an extent, but hey, let's not go crazy. You're pragmatic, and you shy away from ideology. You want what works for America, and you sometimes feel that it isn't found in your own party's platform. You're a loyal Republican, though, and you know that government is at best a necessary evil. You probably have friends (and fierce enemies) on both sides of the aisle. You don't like hippies, but you don't like torture either. You love America, and want it well-defended, prosperous and healthy. You'd also like a bit less yelling, please. You probably have recently said: "I voted for McCain (twice)", "I'm working towards the centre", "I miss my father's Republican Party"