Cap and trade bill polluted by politics

Freedom New Mexico

The House of Representatives is preparing to vote on a massive “cap and trade” bill today purportedly designed to address global warming — though they call it “climate change” now since the globe hasn’t warmed in the last few years — that will probably not be finished until minutes before voting begins.

The reason is proponents are still buying votes from moderate Democrats with special-interest favors and sweetheart deals.

Not only will this bill do little or nothing to curb global warming — it’s all pain and no gain — it has become a Christmas tree for politically connected industries and lobbyists.

Last week HR 2454 was 946 pages long. As of Wednesday morning it had burgeoned to 1,201 pages, as various constituencies made backroom deals with House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman and his cohorts.

That blatant vote-buying and sweetheart deal-making is why environmental groups like Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace, and the open-government organization the Sunlight Foundation have come out against the bill.

What is wrong with this bill? Almost too many things to count.

The original “pure” version of cap-and-trade involved having thousands of bureaucrats do a carbon emission assessment of tens of thousands of industrial facilities and other businesses to establish a five-year average of the carbon dioxide emitted.

Once the baseline was established, a national “cap” of 90 percent of previous emissions would be established, and companies would then have to purchase permission to emit their quotas from the government at annual auctions. Since some businesses would be more successful than others at reducing emission, the credits would be bought and sold in a marketplace, but the overall “cap” would be enforced since only so many credits would be available.

Thus “cap and trade.”

Most carbon emissions result from the use of hydrocarbon energy sources (mostly petroleum-based). Since 85 percent of U.S. energy comes from hydrocarbons, almost all use of energy would become more expensive due to the necessity to buy permission to emit a constantly declining amount of carbon dioxide every year. Thus the system would be a hidden tax on energy that would cost every American, including the middle class and lower-income people that President Obama promised he would never tax.

The kicker, of course, is that assuming carbon dioxide emissions caused by human beings cause global warming — still more theory than fact — the highly respected Institute for Energy Research has estimated the controls in this bill would reduce the global temperature by one-half-of 1 degree Fahrenheit.

Not very impressive.

All that is before the legislative logrolling started. There wasn’t enough support for a pure cap-and-trade bill, so they decided to give away credits to some groups represented by reluctant Congress members. So rural electric cooperatives, states that want to increase mass transit, algae-based biofuel producers, farmers, ethanol producers and others were granted free credits — with a market value.

That process attracted a number of big businesses, like Duke Energy, Shell Oil, Dupont, Alcoa, Applied Materials and others to trade support (and the ability to advertise themselves as “green”) for freebies at the expense of taxpayers.

So the bill has become a festival of rent-seeking, the economists’ term for the search for privilege and gain through the political process. Some day people will look back on the process and compare it to the medieval practice of “bleeding” patients to cure their diseases.