Waxman-Markey Blood in the Water
If ever the stars and planets were aligning for US action on greenhouse gas emissions regulations this surely must be it. Add to the pressure the desire of the Obama Administration to go to Copenhagen in December for the international conference to update the Kyoto Protocol with fresh legislation in hand to pressure China and other holdouts to act. Playing quarterback on the Hill is Rep. Henry Waxman, fresh from his coup deposing Rep. John Dingell as chairman of the powerful House Commerce Committee eager to make his mark and you have the makings of a steamroller.
Not so fast, Henry!
That seems to be the message from a growing chorus of both House and US Senate members and a legion of K Street lobbyists scrambling to cover their assets. Add to that a mini revolt from the members of the House Agriculture Committee including all the Democrats representing farm states who believe the current bill will harm their home state agribusiness interests. Pity Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, a former Governor of Iowa, who testified before the committee only to be told in clear language that the Administration had better take charge of Waxman-Markey (HR 2454) or risk having no bill at all.
When in Doubt, Throw Money at It!
Timothy Gardner, writing for Reuters in a June 11th piece, said the Administration and Democrat leaders on the Hill planned response to the pushback is to shift their strategy on Waxman-Markey from an authorization of cap and trade to a “comprehensive” energy bill. That is, turning the bill into a Christmas tree full of earmark ornaments assured to attract votes like corn farmers to ethanol. The risk in this, of course, is that the skeptics will rail against this as political bribery and extortion and savage the bill for abandoning its high moral ground of saving the planet to grub in the mud of more spending with little regard for the goal.
New Source of Global Warming: Voter Anger!
They also risk tanking the entire project if voter disgust over runaway spending combined with voter suspicion that all this greenhouse gas emissions talk is more politics than science. We see that competition for the hearts and minds of the voters setting up now with the Coalition for Affordable American Energy, a lobbying group lead by the US Chamber of Commerce but now growing to include more than 200 other organizations, which put out a press statement claiming that Waxman-Markey would cost each American family about $1,400 per year by 2020.
While the public is open-minded about reasonable actions the US could and should take to control the growth in greenhouse gas emissions, they remain suspicious that the real game being played is one of income redistribution with winners and losers based upon politics.
When the Situation Seems Hopeless, Expand the Conflict
Glenn English, a former Congressman and now CEO of the Rural Cooperative Association, NRECA, waved the red flag in recent testimony on the Hill arguing that rural electric cooperatives were being left behind while big investor owned utilities soaked up the allowances Congress hopes to dispense as spoils to favored constituents.
NRECA said that some utilities would get more than their fair share of the cap in allowances while others, mostly smaller and rural utilities would be left holding the bag. He cited as examples: SoCalEdison would get 144% of its share of the 2012 cap; PSEG in New Jersey 132%; ConEd in New York 100%; and PG&E 181%. This helped contribute to the House Agriculture Committee mini-revolt from both Democrats and Republicans. English told the committee that cooperatives in Minnesota will receive only about 61% of their proportionate share of the cap in 2012. Co-op consumers in Kentucky will receive just 59% of their share of the cap; in Illinois, 61%; in Arkansas, 62%; and in Ohio, 63%, English said adding gasoline to the fire of rural state indignation.
Then David Sokol, chairman of Warren Buffett’s MidAmerican Energy, a big coal burning utility, piled on telling the committee the true cost of the cap and trade had been low-balled by as much and 50% and would cost his customers $810 million in the first year alone.
Show Me the Money!
Meanwhile, the Congressional Budget Office and the Joint Committee on Taxation estimated the Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade bill would increase U.S. tax revenues by about $846 billion and increase direct required spending for compliance by about $821 billion over the next 10 years.
One more thing. . .
The earth has not warmed further in the last six or seven years! That’s the word from Roy Spencer, a researcher at the University of Alabama, Huntsville, and team leader on NASA’s Aqua satellite. In his presentation to the Third International Conference on Climate Change, sponsored by the Heartland Institute in Washington DC he said that while the scientific evidence suggests that the globe warmed over the past 30 years, “it hasn’t warmed now in the last six or seven years.”
Spencer said that the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change models over estimate the sensitivity of the earth’s climate system to the increase of relatively small amounts of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. He agreed that CO2 levels have been rising the past 50 years, but said it still constitutes less than 1% of the atmosphere.
This delighted Senator Inhofe of Alabama, a skeptic on the topic and ranking member of the Senate Environment Committee who used it to full effect in this week of lobbying frenzy. Inhofe predicted the bill will pass the House but not the Senate.
So don’t count your allowances quite yet—this deal is not done yet!