Caroline May
Senate Democrats are considering yet another global warming bill, optimistic that ­– despite the current economic malaise – a better sales pitch will increase support for their restrictive energy proposals. The legislation’s sponsors, Senators John Kerry (D-MA) and Barbara Boxer (D-CA), thus have dubbed their supposed antidote to climate change the “Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act" of 2009.

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Though the Senators’ rhetoric assures economic reward and national strength, Pete Townsend’s words best describe the Senate proposal’s similarity to the House’s: "Meet the new boss, same as the old boss!”

Indeed, that old boss, the House’s Waxman-Markey bill, has been exposed by groups across the ideological spectrum as an initiative that will provide little more than economic hardship in exchange for limited environmental gain – at best, lowering temperatures mere hundredths of a degree by 2050.

Such legislation, at the expense of prosperity, is not popular. A June Rasmussen Reports national survey showed that 42% of Americans polled said Waxman-Markey would hurt the economy; only 19% believed it would help.

The two bills’ similarity is undeniable. Both will institute a national cap and trade program focused on progressively reducing carbon emissions from the combustion of fossil fuels 83% below 2005 levels by the year 2050. Though in many ways its mandates are indistinguishable from the House version, the Kerry-Boxer bill is actually more restrictive in the early years of the program, calling for a harsher emissions reduction target of 20% by 2020, as opposed to the 17% demanded by Waxman-Markey.

Facing an uphill battle, Senate Democrats since have embarked on a re-branding campaign that conceals the economic truth of their environmental goals.

While the very name of the Senate bill – with its strategic emphasis on jobs and power – screams Madison Avenue, the more significant shift in language is the change in term from “cap and trade” to “pollution reduction and investment.” John Kerry attempted to clarify the alteration for reporters, saying, “I don't know what ‘cap and trade’ means. I don't think the average American does… This is not a cap-and-trade bill, it's a pollution reduction bill." The public, however, is not ignorant. The more it learns about the plan – regardless of how it is labeled – the more it understands that such a system constitutes a massive tax. President Barack Obama himself has admitted as much.


Caroline May

Caroline May is a policy analyst at the National Center for Public Policy Research in Washington.