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CLIMATE BILL SPELLS “SKYROCKETING” ENERGY RATES, UNEMPLOYMENT, LESS FREEDOM

 

By Sarah Foster
Posted 1:00 AM Eastern
July 14, 2009
2009 NewsWithViews.com

WASHINGTON – It was close, but late Friday, June 26, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the highly controversial H.R. 2998 (originally H.R. 2454): The American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES) -- called informally the “Waxman-Markey Global Warming Bill” after its cosponsors Henry Waxman, Calif., and Ed Markey, Mass., both Democrats. The bill now awaits action by the Senate.

This was the first time either house of Congress had approved legislation designed to curb “greenhouse gases” that many believe contribute to “global warming” and climate change. The vote was 212-219. Forty-four Democrats voted No, and without the Yes-votes of eight Republicans it would have gone down in defeat.

President Obama hailed the historic passage, as did House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., who led the charge in ramming the bill through the House, determined to secure approval by July 4.

“We passed transformational legislation, which will take us into the future,” Pelosi boasted at a press conference following the roll call.

And in a derisive slap at the grassroots opposition that bombarded congressional offices with emails, faxes and phone calls, she declared: “For some it was a difficult vote because the agents of the status quo were out there full force, jamming the lines in their districts and here [in D.C.], but [the representatives] withstood that.”

It would definitely be “transformational.” Waxman-Markey is arguably the most sweeping, far-reaching measure Congress has ever considered in terms of its impact on the U.S. economy, industry and standard of living – and the most costly.

House Republican leader John Boehner of Ohio called it “the biggest job-killing bill that has ever been on the floor of the House of Representatives.”

Myron Ebell, Director of Global Warming and International Environmental Policy at the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), describes it as “a massive tax hike that would vastly expand the federal government’s power over the economy. Indeed, [Waxman-Markey] would be the largest tax increase in world history, [would] transfer vast wealth from consumers to big-business special interests.

“And it would put Washington in charge of people’s lives in a way not seen since the Second World War – which was the last time Americans needed ration coupons to buy gasoline, food and other commodities,” he warned.

Yet despite its magnitude, the Democrat-controlled House voted to allow just three hours of debate for the bill itself, plus half an hour for a 309-page Manager’s Amendment (H.R. 2998) by Waxman that was dropped in the hopper at 3 a.m. that morning.

Nobody had read the entire measure, let alone the amendment, when they voted: copies weren’t even available. Moreover, it had grown from about 950 pages to an eyeball-glazing 1,510 in the five days before the vote (that’s including the amendment).

“Unfortunately, this is the New World Order,” said Andrew Moylan, Director of Government Affairs at the National Taxpayers Union (NTU). “Where we have bills that are written in secret, are debated in no time at all, get passed into law – and we find out what little cookies are in there for us after the fact.”

(For lists of some of the hundreds of “cookies” in the Manager’s Amendment click here and here.)

The High Cost of Going Green

The goal of Waxman-Markey is to decrease the level of carbon dioxide and five other “greenhouse gases” in the atmosphere. These gases occur naturally (CO2, in particular, is necessary for plant life), but levels are said to be increased by the burning of carbon-based fossil fuels (oil, coal and natural gas) during energy production that provides 85 percent of U.S. electricity.

That increase is alleged to contribute to “global warming” – though this is widely disputed, as is the theory that there’s any global warming at all. Contrary to claims of Waxman-Markey supporters, such as former Vice President Al Gore, the scientific community is divided over whether there is global warming and if there is, what causes it and what to do about it.

[Read: "Global Warming Challenged" by Willian Hunt]

The bill mandates that 20 percent of U.S. electricity comes from “renewable” sources. Electric and gas utilities, refineries, cement plants, steel foundries and other companies would be required to lower the amount of CO2 emitted from their smokestacks 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020, and down to 83 percent below 2005 levels by 2050.

This will be done through an elaborate permitting process called cap-and-trade that requires companies to have one emission permit – in effect, a ration coupon -- for every ton of CO2 emitted from their smokestacks. The government will set a cap for the maximum amount of CO2 emission, and ratchet the cap down over time -- in theory, forcing companies to invest in lower-carbon technologies such as wind and solar.

Critics predict huge hikes in the cost of lighting, heating, air cooling, and transportation – any activity that depends on electricity or gasoline – plus increases in the price of food and consumer goods and serious unemployment. Overall costs are estimated to range anywhere from $2 trillion to $9 trillion.

“We’re talking about adding hundreds of billions of dollars per year in added costs to energy,” Moylan told NewsWithViews. “That’s something that people are not going to have a choice about if they want to keep the lights on, drive to work and get the kids to school.”

Just before the vote the Congressional Budget Office released figures purporting to show that the cost to the average household would be only $175 a year by 2020. An earlier estimate by CBO had set the tab at $1,600 a year.

Except for this conveniently released report by the CBO, there are virtually no one is claiming that Waxman-Markey is going to be cheap – not even the president for whom it’s a top priority measure.

Obama: “Electricity Rates Will Skyrocket”

In a famous interview with editors of the San Francisco Chronicle (Jan. 17, 2008), then-Senator Obama admitted the price of electricity would go up. Way up. In his words:

“Under my plan of a cap-and-trade system, electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket … because I’m capping greenhouse gases -- coal power plants, natural gas, you name it -- whatever the plants were, whatever the industry was, they would have to retrofit their operations. That will cost money; they will pass that [cost] on to consumers.”

Obama further explained how it would be necessary to persuade the American people that although there would be “some increase” in electricity rates, “over the long term -- because of combinations of more efficient energy usage, and changing light bulbs, more efficient appliances, but also technology in proving how we can produce clean energy -- the economy will benefit.”

He did not promise that rates would eventually come down or even that it would be possible to develop the necessary technology. He only said that the economy would “benefit” and the argument must be made “persuasively enough” for Americans to accept the plan.

At the Heritage Foundation’s Center for Data Analysis, researchers crunched numbers and came up with some specifics about the first 23 years of a project that’s planned to go on for the next 90 years.

According to Heritage findings, under Waxman-Markey the cost of electricity will soar 90 percent between 2012 and 2035; gasoline prices will rise 58 percent; and residential natural gas, 55 percent. A family of four can expect its annual energy bill to be raised by $1,241. (Figures are adjusted for inflation, and assume a 36 percent cut in energy use by consumers trying to adjust to escalating costs.)

That $1,241 yearly energy bill is just the direct increase in energy prices. As energy prices go up, the costs of making consumer goods will follow and businesses will pass these along in the form of higher prices. From the Heritage Foundation's analysis:

“As the higher production costs ripple through the economy, household pocketbooks get hit again and again. When all the direct and indirect energy tax impacts have been added up, family-of-four costs will rise by $2,979 per year on the average over the 2023-2035 timeframe. In 2035 alone, the cost is $4,609.”

With the slowing of the economy, unemployment will go up on average 1,145,000 a year in lost jobs, with peak years seeing unemployment of over 2.4 million jobs gone.

Then there’s the national debt: “By 2035 Waxman-Markey will have driven the national debt 26 percent above what it would be without the legislation, and that represents an additional $28,728 per person, or $114,915 for a family of four.”

Energy Rationing Ahead?

Steve Milloy, co-director of the Free Enterprise Project at the National Center for Public Policy Research and publisher of JunkScience.com, foresees a particularly bleak future of contrived shortages, a higher cost of living, and less personal freedom.

“Worse than the increased cost of energy, perhaps, is that the Waxman-Markey bill will essentially result in artificial limits on energy production and, ultimately, electricity rationing,” Milloy predicts. “The bill will create a permanent energy crisis.”

This will necessarily lead to restrictions on personal activities. “A nation’s standard of living is ultimately based upon the use of energy, be it for work or play,” writes naturalist William Hunt, in a piece for NewsWithViews.

Cooking, heating one’s house, mowing the lawn, cooking, driving to the grocery store, going to the beach on the weekend – “All of these represent freedoms, both nationally and personally. The ability to get into a car and drive is an incredible freedom that most of the world does not have,” Hunt observes.

If the price of gasoline is artificially increased 58 percent, low-income families and individuals would be hard-pressed to pay for it and forced to change their driving habits, perhaps giving up driving altogether.

“These, and indeed all other measures suggested by politicians, regulators and NGOs to deal with global warming [cap and trade, carbon taxes] are about controlling what you do with your life by controlling energy,” says Hunt. “All such things do is to raise the price consumers have to pay for basic needs. They harm the poor most of all by hitting them by raising the costs for basic costs like heat, light, water, sewer, food, gasoline for commuting to work, and every consumer good— clothes, soap, cars, everything.”

Waxman-Markey vs. the Laws of Thermodynamics

“What they’re doing is raising the cost of traditional energy so high that it would be feasible to invest in alternate technologies,” says Andrew Moylan.

“Today, alternative technologies – as great as they may seem to people – are very expensive. It’s not that people desperately want to destroy the environment that they’re not investing in them. They don’t invest in them because they’re extremely expensive. So if you raise the cost of traditional energy so high that it makes other technologies more palatable in terms of cost, there’s going to be more investment in those.”

Whether these will work or not is another question.

Keith Rattie, CEO of Utah-based Questar Corp., is one of the many global-warming skeptics who doesn’t think they will, and he explained why in a talk he gave to the graduating class of Utah Valley University this April.

Said Rattie: “Why has my generation failed to develop wind and solar? Because our energy choices are ruthlessly ruled, not by political judgments, but by the immutable laws of thermodynamics. In engineer-speak, turning diffused sources of energy such as photons in sunlight or the kinetic energy in wind requires massive investment to concentrate that energy into a form that’s usable on any meaningful scale.

“What’s more, the wind doesn’t always blow and the sun doesn’t always shine. Unless or until there’s a major breakthrough in high-density electricity storage – a problem that has confounded scientists for more than 100 years – wind and solar can never be relied upon to provide base load power.”

The Fundamental Question

And in the end, will it be worth it?

“That’s the issue,” said Moylan. “I’m no climate expert, but the folks who are say that even if everything goes according to their plan – which is unlikely – global temperatures might be reduced by one-tenth of one degree by the year 2050.

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“I guess that’s the fundamental question: Is one-tenth of one degree reduction in temperature under the best of circumstances worth $2 trillion in costs? I would say no. I would hope that most rational people say the answer is no. But it seems symbolism has been elevated above science in the debate.”

Selected Earlier Stories

1 - Marc Morano: Moonwalkers Defy Al Gore's Claim. July 11, 2009
2 - Devvy Kidd: Cap-and-Trade Rape Passed – What Must be Done Next. June 29, 2009
3 - William Hunt: Control and Loss of Freedom – Ultimate Goal of the Global Warming Lobby. June 1, 2009
4 - Tom DeWeese: What If There is No Man-Made Global Warming? Mar. 2, 2009
5 - Devvy Kidd: Solution to Global Warming and Disappearing Polar Bears. June 5, 2008
6 - Michael Coffman: Scientists Disclaim Role of CO2 in Global Warming. Mar. 8, 2008
7 - Michael Coffman: Global Warming or Global Governance? Aug. 13, 2007
8 - William Hunt: What Environmentalists Don't Want You to Know. Mar. 14, 2007
9 - William Hunt: The Nonsense of Global Warming. Jan. 22, 2007

More Reading / Resources

1 - Henry Waxman: H.R. 2454 and H.R. 2998: American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009
2 - Heritage Foundation: Cap-and-Trade/Global Warming Bill Page
3 - Nicolas Loris and Ben Lieberman: Cap and Trade: A Handout for Corporations and a Huge Tax on Consumers: Heritage Foundation WebMemo #2476. June 10/17, 2009.
4 - William Beach, David Kreutzer, Karen Campbell and Ben Lieberman: Son of Waxman-Markey: More Politics Makes for a More Costly Bill: Heritage Foundation WebMemo #2450, May 18/June 16, 2009
5 - Government Bytes: Official Blog of the National Taxpayers Union
6 - Steven Milloy: Waxman's Economy Killer. Human Events, June 25, 2009. Milloy is co-director of the Free Enterprise project at the National Center for Public Policy Research and founder/publisher of JunkScience.com (“All the junk that’s fit to debunk”)
7 - Barack Obama interview by SF Chronicle: Segment (audio). Jan. 17, 2008
8 - Barack Obama interview by SF Chronicle: Page of links (audio) to entire interview and segments. Jan. 17, 2008
9 - Wall Street Journal (no byline): The Cap and Tax Fiction. WSJ Online, June 26, 2009
10 - Keith O. Rattie: Energy Myths and Realities: Commencement Address, Utah Valley University, Apr. 2, 2009. Rattie is chairman, president and CEO of Questar Corporation, a natural gas utility in Utah.
11 - Marc Morano’s website: ClimateDepot.com.

2009 NWV - All Rights Reserved

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Sarah Foster is a researcher and freelance writer:
sarahfoster7433@att.net


 

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If the price of gasoline is artificially increased 58 percent, low-income families and individuals would be hard-pressed to pay for it and forced to change their driving habits, perhaps giving up driving altogether.