Waxman-Markey Is Hilarious, but the Joke Is on Us

Myron Ebell

6/29/2009 12:01:00 AM - Myron Ebell

Of all the proposals in President Barack Obama's breathtakingly ambitious agenda to foster long-term economic decline, by far the biggest is the Waxman-Markey energy-rationing bill, which the House of Representatives passed with the narrowest of majorities late Friday evening. This bill by House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Beverly Hills) and Representative Edward Markey (D-Mass.) is more damaging than the $787 billion stimulus, the proposed huge increases in federal spending and corresponding increases in the national debt, the takeover of GM and Chrysler, and the proposed tax hikes on the wealthy - combined.

Enacting Waxman-Markey (H. R. 2454, the American Clean Energy and Security Act) would almost certainly make America a second-rate economic power. However, the bill is full of ironies and amusing touches. Were it not a looming disaster, the whole situation would be hilarious.

The bill is supposed to be about saving us from global warming. Yet its supporters have stopped talking about global warming. This might be because global temperatures stopped rising a decade ago. More likely it's because the pollsters have told Democrats to shut up about global warming and green jobs. The new slogan: get America running on “clean energy.”

The bill’s advocates view it as merely a first step, as former Vice President Al Gore told “super-activists” (all 11,500 of “us”) on a conference call Tuesday night. It’s the biggest tax increase in the history of the world, the largest government intrusion in people's lives since the Second World War (which was the last time gasoline was rationed) and, at 1,201 pages, a whopper of a bill. Requiring that greenhouse gas emissions be reduced by 83 percent below 2005 levels by 2050 is just the beginning.

The reason given for why it has taken years to pass major climate legislation is the bajillion dollars spent by fat cat corporate special interests--Big Oil, King Coal, etc. But a major push behind Waxman-Markey is the United States Climate Partnership (USCAP), whose members include two dozen or so major corporations (including Duke Energy, Dow, GE, Shell, BP, Ford, GM, Alcoa, PG&E, Exelon, DuPont, PepsiCo, even Caterpillar) and some of the same environmental pressure groups that blame big business for stymieing energy-rationing legislation.

Adding to the irony, the corporate CEOs who support cap-and-trade are fawned over for putting the good of the planet ahead of short-term profits. This is a shameful racket that is all about short-term windfall profits. When testifying before Congress, several CEOs of USCAP member companies said that passing Waxman-Markey was imperative but that they would have to oppose it if they had to buy the ration coupons at auction rather than be given them for free. Al Gore, too, could make hundreds of millions of dollars from his investments in alternative energy companies if Waxman-Markey makes them profitable.

The bill’s proponents talk about protecting consumers while intermittently acknowledging that cap-and-trade can only reduce greenhouse gas emissions by dramatically raising the price of energy derived from coal, oil and natural gas. President Obama said during the campaign last year that "under my plan of a cap-and-trade system, electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket." Dr. Peter Orszag, now head of the White House Office and Management and Budget, testified last year when he was head of the Congressional Budget Office that "price increases would be essential to the success of a cap-and-trade program."

When Waxman announced that they had given away 85% of the ration coupons to the various powerful special interests, he added that the purpose was to protect consumers from price increases. If that were true, then consumers would have no reason to reduce their energy consumption, nor would they be forced to use more expensive alternative energy, which would mean that the entire purpose of the bill (the reduction of greenhouse gases) would be rendered moot.

The unacknowledged truth in this charade is that the real reason for giving the ration coupons away is to buy enough political support to pass the bill. Some people are going to become very wealthy from cap-and-trade, but it isn't going to be consumers.

Supporters of Waxman-Markey are now claiming it won't cost anything and have found official support for their claim. The Environmental Protection Agency and the Congressional Budget Office have estimated that it will cost each of us only pennies to reduce emissions drastically with Waxman-Markey. We can save the planet "for the cost of a postage stamp" a day--or even less.

If that were true, why did Democrats on the Energy and Commerce Committee defeat Republican amendments to suspend Waxman-Markey if gasoline reached five dollars a gallon or electric rates doubled or unemployment topped fifteen percent?

The debate on the bill is ongoing. Though it has passed the House, it must pass a few more steps before it is forcibly imposed on Americans. Of course, if it's ever enacted, the joke will be on all of us.