Op-ed: Waxman the Anchorman
The House of Representatives isn't usually known for its shipbuilding skills. Nevertheless, thirty-six Members of the body have spent the past week crafting an enormous anchor to chain to the U.S. economy.
Led by master shipwrights Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.), the House Energy and Commerce Committee just concluded a multi-day marathon of amendments on the Democrats' plan to send energy costs skyrocketing.
In his mad rush to get this command-and-control legislation out of committee by Memorial Day, Chairman Waxman wrote the bill in secret and skipped the subcommittee process. He avoided scrutiny by adding 284 pages of legislative text just last Friday and another 14 pages of changes three days later at the opening of the committee meeting. And in true Democrat style, they shut down the meeting with Republicans still holding hundreds of improvements to the bill.
This type of short-circuited process is disturbing but, by this point, exactly what the country expects from Speaker Pelosi and her foot soldiers. More troublesome are the provisions within the bill that would drag down our economy for decades.
The signature program of the Waxman-Markey legislation is a National Energy Tax, in the form of a "cap-and-trade" program, which mandates reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. And just days before last November's election, then-candidate Barack Obama admitted that "under [his] plan of a cap-and-trade system, electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket." Of course, it won't just be electricity. Energy costs are embedded in the price of everything we buy. If enacted, this energy tax could cost the average household over $3,000 per year.
So, what do we get for our money? A very big anchor, indeed.
According to recent estimates, by 2035 Waxman-Markey will raise gasoline prices 74% and electricity rates 90% higher than they otherwise would be. Skyrocketing electricity rates will cause American families and businesses to reduce their electricity usage by 36%. As a result, aggregate GDP falls by $9.6 trillion, and average yearly unemployment increases by 1,105,000 jobs.
Proponents of the National Energy Tax often claim a desire for the United States to lead the world' in fighting global warming. Perhaps they forget that Europeans have floundered beneath their own carbon trading scheme for more than a decade with little to show. A recent study indicates that, if U.S. greenhouse gas emissions are reduced 83% by the year 2050 as professed by Waxman-Markey, all of our economic anguish will only lower global temperatures by nine hundredths of a degree Fahrenheit. Even Ralph Nader and NASA scientist James Hansen acknowledge that cap-and-trade will have almost no impact on climate.
Anti-capitalists correctly point out, however, that not everyone would suffer under their scheme. People living in China, India, and other developing nations will undoubtedly reap the benefits of living in a rapidly booming economic climate as American jobs, production, investment, and capital flee to countries without similar crippling regulations.
Even without the effects of a National Energy Tax, energy prices will rise when the global economy pulls out of the current recession. Instead of compounding the pain, we must unleash the job-creating potential of American ingenuity and energy resources by passing H.R. 2300, the American Energy Innovation Act. A collaboration of the Republican Study Committee and the Congressional Western Caucus, H.R. 2300, takes an all-you-can-create approach to fulfilling our energy future.
Politicians in Washington cannot create the clean energy innovations of the 21st century. Instead, let's empower the American people to do just that with sustained investment. Among other things, the package makes the Research and Experimentation tax credit permanent, offers new and extended tax credits to incentivize renewable energy technologies, and provides incentives for super fuel efficient vehicles and microturbines to increase national grid efficiency.
The American Energy Innovation Act employs positive conservation measures rather than wealth-destroying mandates and caps. Our bill provides incentives for energy efficient vehicles, homes, appliances, and commercial buildings. It includes a permanent extension of the tax credits for non-business energy property and fuels produced from biomass and synthetic processes. We also address emissions by supporting research and implementation of carbon capture and storage techniques.
Finally, this all-you-can-create plan unleashes the potential of today's technologies and resources such as nuclear power, clean coal, petroleum, natural gas, and synthetic fuels. It opens up offshore drilling, and it ushers in a new era in which we finally fully utilize American sources of energy for Americans. Not only will our plan give the United States greater direction over its energy future, it will lead to new jobs to support a broader, more stable employment foundation for American workers.
This country needs the American Energy Innovation Act to help our economy and energy development sail smoothly into the future, not a national energy tax to anchor us to the bottom.
Rep. Price is a Republican who represents the 6th Congressional District of Georgia and is chairman of the Republican Study Committee.