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Climate bill a clever ruse for energy companies



Published: Thu, June 23, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



By DENNIS T. AVERY

KNIGHT RIDDER/TRIBUNE

WASHINGTON -- Sen. Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico is pushing a climate change bill that is being touted as a market-driven way to address the risk of global warming.

In fact, however, it will impose costs and achieve virtually nothing. If truth-in-advertising regulations applied to legislative proposals, Bingaman, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Energy Committee, would have to withdraw his Climate and Economy Insurance Act from the political marketplace. His bill would collect premiums without a payoff.

The bill would put into law the recommendations of a self-appointed, so-called National Commission on Energy Policy (http://www.energycommission.org/about/). The commission deserves the designation "so-called" because no government body or official appointed it.

The proposals of this commission would impose a cap on carbon-dioxide emissions and mandate specific energy efficiency improvement targets -- in effect drastically curtailing energy use since carbon dioxide results from energy combustion.

These arbitrary limits would be imposed with no one in Congress or the federal government having any idea of how to achieve them. To address this problem a complex system for buying and selling emission allowances and price controls would be set up as a means of limiting the cost of the arbitrary mandate.

Time delay

Bingaman's legislation would not take effect until 2010. Delaying the effective date also means that many of the Senate proponents might no longer be in office -- or their votes remembered -- so they could be held accountable by voters.

To build support for this flim-flam, Bingaman cites an analysis by the U.S. Energy Information Administration, which concluded that it "would not materially affect average economic growth rates" between now and the year 2025.

The key words in this statement are "materially" and "average," which mask a lot of mischief and damage. In fact, the EIA analysis finds the bill would slash economic growth by more than $30 billion annually and cost more than 170,000 American workers their jobs by 2025.

Yet this huge economic outlay would, at best, have a negligible impact on projected temperature -- one far too small to measure accurately. The net effects are higher costs for consumers and a transfer of wealth to companies clever enough to play the political game.

During the time period, China would increase its projected carbon-dioxide emissions by twice the cuts pledged by Kyoto current signatories, if, in fact, they managed to meet their treaty obligations.

Bingaman asserts that the EIA analysis proves that it is possible to reduce greenhouse gas emissions without harming the economy. Only a staunch believer in Big Government can believe that $30 billion in annual economic losses causes no harm.

Unfortunately, Bingaman's staff cooked the analytical books by using the equivalent of Enron accounting gimmicks to fore-ordain the outcome.

The bottom line is that a cap on energy use will cause energy scarcity, which will lead to higher prices. Government actions that raise prices constitute a "hidden tax" on consumers. So, this proposal is just another way of promoting the ill-conceived Clinton BTU tax on energy consumption, which was forcefully repudiated by the Senate. It is a wolf in sheep's clothing.

History tells us this is the Earth's third warming in 2000 years. What does Bingaman blame for the Roman Warming of the 1st century, and the Medieval Warming in the 12th century, both of which were warmer than today? The Antarctic ice cores tell us we've had 600 such moderate, cyclical warmings in the last million years.

The late comedian Groucho Marx once observed that politics is the "art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly, and applying wrong remedies." Groucho, meet Sen. Bingaman.

X Dennis T. Avery, a former government agriculture analyst, is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute.




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