Tuesday, November 03, 2009

What’s behind the manic rush to pass
dangerous, intrusive legislation?

Belief in manmade climate change has dropped off in recent years and support for cap and trade measures also is losing steam. This latter trend is picking up speed as it becomes more obvious that climate scientists are sharply divided on whether humans play any role in global warming/global cooling/climate change. However, the U.S. Congress races blindly on with plans to enact sweeping, intrusive legislation, undaunted by either the lack of convincing evidence that human activity affects the environment, or the public’s increasing disaffection with this legislation.

While a recent CNN poll found that 60 percent support cap and trade measures, it neglected to mention to participants that these measures will raise energy and other costs, instead talking only about companies paying penalties for their greenhouse-gas emissions.

But when consumers realize their pocketbooks will take a hit, they have a different view, as shown by a poll commissioned by NBC and The Wall Street Journal. The survey asked half the respondents: “Would you approve or disapprove of a proposal that would require companies to reduce greenhouse gases that cause global warming, even if it would mean higher utility bills for consumers to pay for the changes?” This question garnered only 48 percent approval when respondents realized their costs would rise, while 43 percent disapproved, a significant change from April, when 53 percent approved and 40 percent disapproved.

The other half was asked questions about the importance of greenhouse-gas pollution.
Only 29 percent regard it as a serious problem requiring immediate action (down from 34 percent in 2007), and 29 percent also believe we don’t know enough and need more research (up from 25 percent in 2007). These changes in public perception of this issue occurred despite the one-sided coverage of the scientific debate on manmade climate change.

Each house of Congress has its own version of this legislative misadventure, crafted in Capital backrooms in meetings to which the minority party was not invited, the 946-page Waxman-Markey bill in the House and the 821-page Kerry-Boxer bill in the Senate.

During climate change hearings Montana Democrat Sen. Max Baucus, chair of the Senate Finance Committee, commented that “we cannot afford the unmitigated impacts of climate change but we also cannot afford the unmitigated effects of legislation.” Like so many in Congress Sen. Baucus is unaware that human-caused climate change is a tenuous claim, at best, so his comment is only half right; we cannot afford the unmitigated effects of this legislation.

Putting that concern into practical terms, Steve Roberts, president of the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce, which represents businesses providing jobs to a majority of West Virginia workers, said that while the administration and Congress have put several anti-business measures into effect, the greatest threat to his state lies in the cap and trade bills. Speaking to the Rotary Club of Bluefield, W.Va., he said that in addition to raising the cost of electricity, the Waxman-Markey Bill contains 1,000 costly new mandates and 420 expensive resolutions that employers will have to implement, if the bill becomes law.

Mr. Roberts believes it is possible to craft legislation to address carbon pollution that would actually do something about it, but Waxman-Markey will have no measurable impact on the environment. It will, however, have a substantial negative impact on the economy of West Virginia, as well as neighboring southwestern Virginia, and other states whose economy depends upon energy.

Another leader whose organization represents businesses providing jobs to Americans – nine million jobs, to be precise – is Jack Gerard, President of the American Petroleum Institute. “Like the House climate change bill,” he said, “the Senate’s Kerry-Boxer bill would hurt our economy by killing American jobs, increasing energy costs and undermining our nation’s energy security.” He said that multiple studies show that more than two million jobs, net of any so-called “green” jobs created, will be lost, and rising direct and indirect energy costs will hit everyone in the pocketbook.

“The Kerry-Boxer bill would undermine America’s energy security,” he continued. “Under the bill, many refining and related jobs would likely move offshore to countries that have lower costs because they do not have similar climate change laws. Americans would be more dependent on foreign sources of gasoline and other refined products. … We should not be sending any of these jobs overseas.”

The Energy Information Administration analysis of the House bill predicts gasoline prices may exceed $5 a gallon and diesel prices may exceed $5.60. With our economy struggling to recover from a historical recession, now is not the time to enact job-killing legislation, or measures that will raise the cost of living for the American people.

Job creation will suffer if businesses spend more of their money on higher taxes and higher operational costs, and everyday Americans can’t buy more products to spur the economy if they don’t have a job, or they have less to spend on wants and needs because the costs of energy and everything associated with it have been driven higher by thoughtless legislation.

Surely our servants in Washington are capable of understanding this simple economic equation. But perhaps they are more concerned with increasing control over their constituents than with protecting their interests.

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