Posts tagged ‘climate bill’

I'm Amazed They Are Amazed

Folks on the Left seem amazed that Obama could not muster a single Republican vote for his climate bill.  I am amazed they are amazed.  When you set traps lined with feces-smeared pungi sticks for opposition legislators, it may be momentarily fun for the Progressive base, but it does not make the opposition very happy to work with you.

Which is fine with me -- I don't think I can get too worked up about the Coke and the Pepsi party beating the crap out of each other.  But this administration does not seem to be able to make up its mind how it wants to govern.  With the Presidency, control of both Houses, and (originally) 60 votes in the Senate, a scorched Earth approach was probably viable.   I have no doubt Gingrich would have taken that approach had he had such numbers.

What confuses me, and I think a lot of the Progrossives rooting for a new October Revolution, is Obama has communicated publicly in scorched Earth mode but has not really legislated that way.  Time after time the Democrats keep seeking out Republican votes to give them cover for legislation that might be unpopular, but Obama's Chicago-style demonizing does not seem to help that much.  I am not much of a political observer, so their may be a sensible strategy in all this but I don't see it.

I Am Not Sure This Is In Your Members' Best Interests

I got a press purportedly from a group of Latino political groups that included this:

National Latino organizations representing over 2 million people have united for the first time to urge for the approval of clean energy and climate legislation. As part of the effort, the coalition delivered a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, members of the US Senate and the White House calling on them to pass comprehensive clean energy and climate legislation this year.Citing the economic and health benefits such legislation would bring to the Latino community, the letter urged swift action.  Across the country Latino communities, organizations and businesses are raising their voices in support of clean energy and climate change legislation. The Latino coalition is also launching an ad campaign, titled "Estamos listos" or "We're Ready," to urge the federal Government and Congress to act.

Action on climate and clean energy this year is critical to the Latino community and the country as a whole.  Latinos face an unemployment rate higher than the national average at 13%, and a clean energy and climate bill could create thousands of new jobs in a green economy benefitting not only Latinos but the rest of the country, as well.

I was fairly amazed to see a group that represents a lot of low-skilled workers and poorer families support a new, quite regressive tax.  I wrote them

I'm curious if your organization honestly believes that Latinos would be helped by higher energy prices that are the inevitable result of the bill, or is support for this legislation a quid pro quo to get Democrats in Congress to support legislation that you care about more?  Even if a thousand of your members get a new job building windmills, and even assuming none of them are working in energy-intensive industries that might have layoffs due to higher electricity prices, I still count 1000 who have a better job and 1,999,000 who just have a higher electricity bill.  Given the tragic hostility of my state (Arizona) right now to the Latino community, I just can't believe you don't have something better to work on right now.

I Am Tired of Hearing About Liquidity Traps

Here is as good a reason as any why many businesses (like mine) are currently reluctant to invest:

I've noted any number of times that government taxes comprise 14% of the national income and government spending is at 25% of the national income.

OK, so politicians have two alternatives -- they can make tough choices to reduce spending and reduce their own power, or they can just take more money from taxpayers and in so doing increase their personal power.  Gee, I wonder which will occur?

Combine this is a health care bill no one understands but everyone suspects will raise the price of labor and a climate bill that won't quite die that will raise the price of energy and therefore most other inputs, and is it any wonder that businesses are reluctant to invest when their three highest costs (taxes, labor, energy) are going up by some undetermined amount?

I Hate to Repeat Myself, But...

Remember this -- a climate bill will have impact on CO2 emissions in direct proportion to how much it raises fossil-fuel-related energy prices.  When supporters of the bill say things like "it won't raise prices very much" they are in effect declaring "this bill will not solve the intended problem."

Below is a map of some of the climate actions being proposed.  As portrayed here, the current cap-and-trade bill is perhaps the worst of all choices, realizing limited gains (as demonstrated by programs in Europe and their supporters own estimates) combined with high costs.  The program is expensive to administer and much of the higher costs to consumers end up as subsidies to large corporations and green pork.

climate-actions

The combination plan of a large carbon tax offset by payroll tax reductions was discussed here.

A Helpful Primer on the Politics of a Carbon Tax

Kevin Drum and Joe Romm offer a helpful primer on the politics of a carbon tax.  Unfortunately, they are a little shy in coming out with exactly what they mean, so I will add in a few helpful explanations.

1. A carbon tax, particularly one capable of deep emissions reductions quickly, is a political dead end....

What they are referring to is that though both are approximately equally costly, the government imposed costs of a cap and trade are better hidden from the consumer than those of a carbon tax, thus making it a more palatable plan for politicians.  By raising costs to producers, and then having the producers inevitably raise prices to the consumer, wily politicians can blame the producers,  not themselves, for the price increases.

2. A carbon tax that could pass Congress would not be simple. Advocates of a tax argue that simplicity is one of its biggest benefits.  Again, those advocates seem bizarrely unfamiliar with the tax code in spite of the fact that they pay taxes every year....

Basically, they are arguing that Congress is incapable of producing a simple, clean law.  Politicians used to be able to do this (the US Constitution will fit on the back of a cereal box -- the new EU proposed constitution barely fits in a large 3-ring binder) but have obviously lost the knack.  Or, more likely, as public choice theory tells us, as the dollar stakes have been raised, politicians are incapable of resisting the pressure of huge sums of money at stake for targeted tweaks and overrides for politically favored groups.

By the way, the comparison he is making to the US income tax code is a false one.  The carbon tax is much more like a sales tax, and many state governments in the US (though not all) maintain very simple and easy to administer sales tax systems with single rates and little complexity.  Our sales tax return in New Mexico, for example, consists of three numbers and a signature on a form about the size of a 3x5 card.

3. A carbon tax is woefully inadequate and incomplete as a climate strategy. Why?  Well, for one, it doesn't have mandatory targets and timetables.  Thus it doesn't guarantee specific emissions results and thus doesn't guarantee specific climate benefits.  Perhaps more important, it doesn't allow us to join the other nations of the world in setting science-based targets and timetables.  Also, a tax lacks all of the key complementary measures "” many of which are in Waxman-Markey "” that are essential to any rational climate policy, but which inherently complicate any comprehensive energy and climate bill.

Basically, their argument here is that they don't like the fact that the success of a carbon tax relies on the unmanaged, bottom up responses to higher prices by 300 million Americans acting in their own best interests and finding their own individual solutions to carbon reduction.  The authors instead prefer a few people in Washington, heavily influenced by a number of special interest lobbyists, setting policy and picking winners.  "Complementary measures" is shorthand for government picking of winners and subsidizing of ... whatever the hell Congress chooses to subsidize.  It is a great way to wrap pork in a nifty new green wrapper.

I think most folks who are not naive understand that what the authors are advocating for here is doomed to be hopelessly politicized -- this is, after all, how we got massive ethanol subsidies that do zero for carbon emissions.  But even if one believes the politicians in charge are monks of public service making purely science-based decisions, these guys still are advocating for at most a few hundred people making the major carbon reduction priority decisions from the top rather than 300 million making them from the bottom up.

Besides, isn't this argument deeply contradictory.  In points 1 and 2, they basically argued that the legislative process is deeply politicized and it is naive to think otherwise.   But then, in point 3, they make an argument for top down planning over bottom up response to planning that can only be even marginally valid if the process is not politicized and science, and not political pull, rule decisions.

Postscript: A couple of related stories, first from the Washington Times:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry A. Waxman, both of California, were among the Democrats -- then in the minority -- who slammed Vice President Dick Cheney for holding closed-door meetings to draft energy policy early in the Bush administration.

Republicans "invited energy lobbyists to write the energy bill that gouges consumers with big payoffs to Big Gas and Big Oil," Mrs. Pelosi said in 2005. "They have turned Washington, D.C., into an oil and gas town when it is supposed to be the city of innovation, of new, of fresh ideas about our energy policy."

But the sweeping climate bill Mr. Waxman and Rep. Edward J. Markey, Massachusetts Democrat and chairman of the panel's key environmental subcommittee, introduced at the end of March includes a provision that benefits Duke Energy Corp., a founding member of the U.S. Climate Action Partnership (USCAP), whose climate plan released in January the lawmakers have frequently called a "blueprint" for their climate legislation.

The exemption would save Duke Energy -- along with other firms now building new coal power plants -- from having to spend millions of dollars outfitting its Cliffside, N.C., power plant currently under construction with "clean coal" technology.

"The USCAP companies must be delirious over the freebies that they've received after writing the blueprint for [the House draft bill]," said Larry Neal, deputy Republican staff director for the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

The second is from the Washington Examiner via Watts Up With That

In exchange for votes to pass a controversial global warming package, Democratic leaders are offering some lawmakers generous emission "allowances" to protect their districts from the economic pain of pollution restrictions.

Rep. Gene Green, D-Texas, represents a district with several oil refineries, a huge source of greenhouse gas emissions. He also serves on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which must approve the global warming plan backed by President Barack Obama.

Green says Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., who heads the panel, is trying to entice him into voting for the bill by giving some refineries favorable treatment in the administration's "cap and trade" system, which is expected to generate hundreds of billions of dollars over the coming years. Under the plan, companies would pay for the right to emit carbon dioxide, but Green and other lawmakers are angling to get a free pass for refineries in their districts.

"We've been talking," Green said, referring to a meeting he had with Waxman on Tuesday night. "To put together a bill that passes, they have to get our votes, and I'm not going to vote for a bill without refinery allowances."

This Can't Possibly End Well

Forget for a moment the real scientific questions about the future magnitude of anthropogenic global warming.  Just imagine the abuse of this new proposed statute, given that incredibly difficult nature of causality in a complex, chaotic system like climate:

An under-the-radar provision in a House climate bill would give plaintiffs who claim to be victims of global warming a way to sue the federal government or businesses, according to a report Friday in The Washington Times.

The Times reported that Democratic Reps. Henry Waxman of California and Edward Markey of Massachusetts added it into a bill they authored.

The provision, which was just released, reportedly would set grounds for plaintiffs who has "suffered" or expect to suffer "harm" attributable at least in part to government inaction. The provision defines "harm" as "any effect of air pollution (including climate change)," according to the Times. Plaintiffs could seek up to $75,000 in damages a year from the government, with $1.5 million being the maximum total payout.

Remember that it was just weeks ago that the President of the United States blamed flooding in North Dakota on global warming.  If flood damage that resulted from a colder-than-average winter and near record snowfall can be blamed on anthropogenic global warming, then anything can.