Energy costs are high, in fact they're very high. Gas prices might not be at the sky-high rates we experienced last summer, but they are still a consistent burden. In fact, just last week Chicago was named the most expensive city in the country to fill up your tank of gas - at a whopping $2.57 average per gallon. Add rising electricity costs with one of the harshest economic climates we've ever faced, and every family now knows the major burden energy costs have become.
Now imagine a new and additional national energy tax - a tax that would be levied every time you filled up the gas tank or flipped on a light switch or turned on hot water. Well this nightmare is real, and it's what Congressional Democrats are proposing.
The proposal for a national energy tax, also known as Cap and Trade, will mandate a cap on emissions, which the Democrats' claim will be better for environmental stewardship. Their intentions are commendable, but recent testimony before the House Ways & Means Committee contradicts their claims of these benefits materializing. In a hearing in February, we heard testimony that used the models of the International Panel on Climate Change that indicated that even if 1,000 nuclear plants could be operating by 2020, the change in climate would be only a .07 degree Celsius drop by 2050 and a .15 degree Celsius drop by 2100. Ultimately, in practice, this national energy tax scheme would be nothing more than a devastating exercise of the heavy hand of government.
Our country has never been best served by government's heavy hand, and the future impact on our energy sector would be no different. There's nothing new or innovative about government overreach and excessive mandates in the Democrats' Cap and Trade bill, in fact much the opposite. It comes from the same old playbook. The muscle memory of the Democratic leadership is just so heavy that in crafting policy, they simply revert back to another tax scheme. All Americans should be wary, very wary.
This tax would hit every family and business from Maine to California, and would hit particularly hard locally. Our area relies on coal-fueled electricity and a strong manufacturing base, both of which will get whacked under the Congressional Democrats' plan. Economists have predicted the average family's energy costs would rise $3,100 per year. Think of how difficult it already is to pay the bills, without an extra $3,100 in expenses. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that gas prices alone could rise between $.61 cents and $1.60 for each gallon. Chicago's already highest in the nation gas prices could go from $2.57 to $4.23 per gallon.
Not only would individuals feel the painful effects of the tax, but local businesses would be directly impacted as well. Local manufacturers are under tremendous pressure to be competitive in an international marketplace. Overseas labor rates and domestic regulatory pressures are just a couple of the challenges American businesses face. The last thing our local businesses need is an increased tax at a time when their competitors overseas, in India and China, have made it abundantly clear they won't abide by any similar higher emission standards.
America is desperately in need of true energy reform - the kind that can help jump start our economy, provide responsible stewardship of our environment and dramatically change the face of energy consumption in the U.S. The way forward is through innovation, a pursuit of transformational technologies, not another tax.
Here in Illinois we are already investing in and pursuing energy solutions that emphasize innovation and the power of new ideas. One example is the Gas Technology Institute in Des Plaines. GTI is currently conducting very promising research on hydrogen technology, and they have the first hydrogen fueling station in Illinois.
Looking down the road, Illinois is poised to be on the forefront of energy reform. The potential Futuregen project, which would be located here in Illinois, could be truly transformational for clean coal technology. Not only would a nearly emission free clean coal facility be helpful for Illinois' economy, but our state has a wealth of coal. In fact, there are more British Thermal Units (BTU) of energy in the coal in Southern Illinois than in the Saudi and Kuwaiti old fields combined. If we had the technology to tap into this resource while maintaining environmental standards, it would dramatically change the face of energy in the U.S.
Now, we still have a long way to go and major hurdles to clear before we achieve meaningful self-sustaining energy reform, but the Democrats' national energy tax is entirely the wrong prescription for our current ailments. With our economy in such peril, more taxes, especially on the lower and middle class will only further endanger economic recovery. Let's opt for innovation over the heavy hand of government.