Most folks who live in South Carolina are familiar with the saying "it's time to fish or cut bait." As I followed recent deliberations over the federal cap and trade proposal, otherwise known as the Waxman-Markey bill and formally known as the "American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009," it became increasingly obvious that it was time to "cut bait" on this particular piece of legislation. While it is debatable what real impact, if any, it would have on reducing global warming, it is a certainty this bill hits American consumers and businesses where it hurts, all while giving China a free pass.
While common-sense should dictate that you don't change your entire economic structure in order to slow our temperature increase by a miniscule 9/100 of a degree Fahrenheit (which is what this bill would accomplish), there are powerful forces at work that care little about cost and benefit as long as their vision of a carbon-constrained economy is achieved. Those of us who believe that America can both create job opportunities and responsibly protect the environment must speak out as this legislation moves to the Senate.
The message to the Senate must be loud and clear: We need a balanced energy plan that minimizes the adverse effects on American households and businesses. The Waxman-Markey bill does nothing of the sort.
This legislation creates an incentive to move American jobs overseas to China and India, who last time I checked have chosen not to wreck their economies. But don't take my word for it. In the first year alone, the Heritage Foundation estimates that South Carolina would lose over 23,000 jobs as a result of this bill (with 3,300 of those right here in the First District). Adding insult to injury, according to the US Chamber the Waxman-Markey legislation imposes 397 new federal regulations and 1060 new business mandates. And the National Black Chamber of Commerce estimates that the bill will result in a net job loss of 2.3 million to 3 million -- an estimate that accounts for the "green" jobs proponents claim will be created.
Making America more energy independent is a goal we all share and one that President Obama and Speaker Pelosi used as a rationale for cap and trade. The Pew Charitable Trust even had a recent town hall meeting in Charleston touting the linkage between national security and climate change as a reason to pass the bill; yet they offered no "solution" as to how our military's fleet would run without oil and gas. Any serious proposal to advance energy independence must include incentives for more domestic exploration and production of oil and gas. Ironically, Waxman-Markey penalizes the domestic oil and gas industry by excluding U.S. refiners from most of the free emission allowance provisions that are intended to level the playing field for "energy-intensive, trade-exposed" industries. This exclusion will undoubtedly increase costs and give a competitive advantage to non-U.S. refiners. Jobs will be lost, America will have less energy security than ever before, and consumers will have less money in their pockets.
As the trucking industry spokesmen have noted, truck transport is not a discretionary activity; it is an essential element of moving our nation's freight. Couple this fact with no provisions for offshore exploration or needed incentives to develop new fuel technologies crucial to a more modern freight transportation industry, and the consequence will be higher costs. Having been intimately involved in the movement of goods across this country I can tell you without a doubt that fuel prices will increase due to this bill -- and the increased cost of transporting goods will be passed on to the public.
The challenge our elected officials face is to find a balanced energy solution -- something the Waxman-Markey proposal fails to do. A truly balanced plan would include commitments to and investments in conservation; renewable energy, nuclear energy (France can do it and we can't?) and more domestic oil and gas production (instead of mortgaging our nation's future by shipping our dollars to the Middle East for oil and then borrowing those dollars plus interest back to finance our deficits). We can do this while protecting and responsibly utilizing our natural resources to meet increased demand -- which is still expected to grow by 19 percent over the next 20 years. If such a plan cannot be realized it would be best for the Senate to "cut bait" and have Congress begin anew on this important legislation that will affect both our quality of life and our economy for years to come.