Pending cap-and-trade energy legislation in Congress will be too expensive and will not curb carbon emissions enough, U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith, R-San Antonio, said Monday during a Greater San Antonio Chamber of Commerce luncheon.
Smith said the Congressional Budget Office estimates a federal cap-and-trade program would cost U.S. families an average of $1,600 in higher energy costs each year. The 22-year veteran congressman said that is the lowest estimate he has seen so far.
A cap-and-trade program would set limits for carbon emissions from industrial and commercial sources. Permits for increased usage must be purchased or traded from companies that are reducing emissions.
"No matter what, it will be expensive," Smith said. "It won't reduce emissions," he added, citing limited success in Europe and the lack of similar programs elsewhere in the world.
Smith said he supports growth in solar and wind power, especially as ways are developed to store and to transmit alternative electrical generation. "But the hard reality is that only 2 percent of power comes from wind and solar," Smith told more than 150 people attending the chamber luncheon.
Seventy percent of power still comes from carbon-emitting fossil fuels, Smith said, and 20 percent comes from nuclear power. "I think nuclear needs to be part of the mix as we try to reduce our reliance on foreign energy," Smith said.
Smith said he also favors opening part of the protected Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska for drilling, stating that oil reserves there could offset 20 percent of the oil imported from Saudi Arabia.
On other issues:
Smith said momentum has slowed in Congress toward action on proposed legislation that would allow labor unions to organize workers though open balloting. He said polls show 80 percent of U.S. workers believe union membership is an individual decision and believe that secret balloting should continue.
Smith called President Barack Obama's budget proposals unsustainable because, for the first time, the U.S. government would spend twice as much as it gets in revenues. "This would add to the burden of future generations," the congressman said.
Smith said the $1.3 trillion price tag for proposed health care policies is too high. Small businesses would be hit hard, and waits for health care services would lengthen, he said. He also said he believes three-fourths of U.S. citizens would oppose proposed health care reforms if they knew how much it would cost and that there will be government intervention between doctors and patients.