Thursday, March 26, 2009

The EPA, cap-and-trade, and you

Global warming isn’t about the weather. It never has been. It is about political influence and tax revenue. In his second prime time press conference, President Obama remarked:
I’ve said that we’ve got to have a serious energy policy that frees ourselves from dependence on foreign oil and makes clean energy the profitable kind of energy.
Like any good lawyer, Obama knows how to perform verbal sleight of hand that will make your head spin. He has seized the language of capitalism and twisted it to fit policies that are decidedly anti-capitalist and diametrically opposed to our country’s notion of liberty. Profitable clean energy? Sounds awesome, doesn’t it? Of course, there are two ways to make ‘clean’ energy profitable. You can attempt to make the technologies cheap, abundant, and efficient enough to compete with current technology, or you can use regulation to artificially inflate the price of current technologies to the point at which the ‘green’ energy does indeed become profitable.

The Obama administration has two tools – regulatory machetes – with which to hack at the currently ‘unclean’ American energy infrastructure to pieces and make green energy profitable. Keep in mind, this isn’t profitable in the fun, prosperity generating sense of the word; this is ‘profit’ in the Obama sense of the word. As in: we all have to bend over, grab our ankles, and prepare to ‘profit’ for the greater global good. These twin machetes of massive regulation that president Obama will wield to defeat that evil nemesis, global warming, or as all the cool kids now call it - anthropological global climate change, are the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and cap-and-trade legislation.

A pdf document containing PowerPoint slides leaked to the public drops some hints about the EPA’s agenda. By mid-April, the EPA is expected to issue an endangerment finding labeling carbon dioxide a dangerous pollutant subject to regulation under the Clean Air Act. Specifically, the EPA findings will declare that CO2 is harmful to your health, citing dangers of global warming such as droughts, floods, really big storms, and icky bugs – which apparently only came along once mankind began to enjoy the benefits of electricity. Things that produce CO2 include: you, your kids, cars, cows, factories, and plasma TV’s. Apparently unaware that they long ago passed the threshold of self-parody, the document also introduces us to the fabulously commie-tastic concept of “environmental justice.” Apparently, evil rich Americans now cause droughts, floods, storms, and bugs, along with all the other woes ever to affect the world.

As a clever political move, for the time being, the EPA will focus mainly on measurement and reporting of CO2 emissions and leave actual regulatory actions for a later date. However, this finding leaves any new activity which will result in increased output of CO2 vulnerable to lawsuits. Of course, they won’t be making any rules just yet; they are only monitoring it. Conveniently, the monitoring and regulatory powers of the Clean Air Act are strictly the prerogative of the executive branch.

Don’t worry, though, Obama assures us all that he prefers a legislative solution in the form of cap-and-trade. Of course he does! He expects to tax CO2 to generate revenue. What better way to infinitely expand the government than to tax you every time you exhale? Obama explained in that press conference:

I think cap-and-trade is the best way, from my perspective, to achieve some of those gains, because what it does is it starts pricing the pollution that’s being sent into the atmosphere.

The way it’s structured, it has to take into account regional differences. It has to protect consumers from huge spikes in electricity prices. So there are a -- a lot of technical issues that are going to have to be sorted through.

Cap-and-trade will amount to an enormous hidden tax on the middle class. CO2 production is implicit in nearly every facet of productivity; for the average citizen, the effects of hyper aggressive regulation will manifest themselves as an across the board increase in cost of products manufactured in the United States, pain at the gas pump, and noticeably higher electricity bills. They will avoid “huge spikes in electricity prices” so as to boil the frog slowly, but you need not worry about all that. It’s technical.

Cap-and-trade systems aim to limit CO2 through an indirect method that is not actually a tax, but the costs are ultimately passed on to ordinary citizens who dutifully pay their utility bills. Typical cap-and-trade schemes arbitrarily select a ‘cap’ on tons of CO2 emitted. Based on this arbitrary cap, the governing body then sells permits to emit CO2 to anyone unfortunate enough to be roped in to the regulations. Any business ensnared in the regulations must own permits for the amount of CO2 they are emitting. If they don’t have the proper permits, they are subject to steep fines and penalties. Should they procure excess permits, they can then sell them, hence the ‘trade’ aspect of the system. In this way, Obama and cohorts can say, “see, we’re using free markets!” However, what they are really doing is distorting free markets for their own financial and political gain.

The stratospheric costs of cap-and-trade legislation may make it a tough sell, even with Democratic domination of Congress. Originally, the White House estimated that the cost of cap-and-trade legislation would come out to around $646 billion, but recently, Jason Furman, deputy director of the White House National Economic Council, revealed that the actual cost to businesses and consumers would more realistically be between $1.3 trillion and $1.9 trillion between 2019 and 2019. Other estimates suggest that cap and trade policies will raise US electricity prices by 15 to 30%. Imagine your electric bill and the cost of everything that involves electricity going up 15 to 30%. Any paltry rebate checks the Obama administration will dangle in front of the public won’t even begin to cover the costs.

Of course, if cap-and-trade legislation doesn’t work out, we can always fall back on those EPA regulations – and round and round we go. It can be useful to examine how the specter of global warming has been raised elsewhere to generate revenue, increase political power, and boldly govern what no government has tried to govern before. Carbon rationing won’t stop at the industrial level. Remember, it isn’t just factories, power plants, and cars that produce CO2. Humans exhale CO2 with every breath. Unless we emphatically reject this stealth taxation here and now, it will eventually be applied at every level of society, right down to the individual.

In Australia, one creative environmentalist used global warming to re-open the debate in the west on population control. Using the same logic as the cap-and-trade legislation, that CO2 is a pollutant and that the polluter pays, an obstetrician wrote in a letter to the editor in the Australian Journal of Medicine:

Far from showering financial booty on new mothers and thereby rewarding greenhouse-unfriendly behaviour, a “Baby Levy” in the form of a carbon tax should apply, in line with the “polluter pays” principle. Every family choosing to have more than a defined number of children (Sustainable Population Australia suggests a maximum of two) should be charged a carbon tax that would fund the planting of enough trees to offset the carbon cost generated by a new human being.

Yep, we new moms are living large on that financial booty. You see, not adopting awesome reproductive policies like China, would be arrogant. Specifically, Dr. Barry Walters’ plan called for parents to be taxed $5000 for each child after the second and up to $800 per year there after. Couples opting for sterilization and birth control would be eligible for carbon credits.

In 2008, the UK scrapped plans for a controversial ‘carbon card’ scheme. The idea would take carbon rationing down to the individual level. Under the plan, every UK citizen would be given a carbon allowance tracked by the same technology that makes credit cards possible. Ultimately, proponents gave up, for now, because the idea would probably be unpopular. To paraphrase my inner third grader: like duh.

Just in case you think that the brave new personal carbon rationing schemes can never be brought to the United States, think again. Obama’s climate czarina, Carol Browner, is, purely by coincidence, a former member of Socialist International and former leader of the Commission for a Sustainable World Society. The mission of the Commission just happens to be “global governance” and combating global warming. In an interview to US News in early March, she gushed enthusiasm over smart grid technology:

Eventually, we can get to a system where an electric company will be able to hold back some of the power so that maybe your air conditioner won't operate at its peak, you'll still be able to cool your house, but that'll be a savings to the consumer.

I am not sure I understand how making your air conditioner less efficient will be a savings to the consumer. Maybe it is kind of like how record breaking deficit spending is actually an investment. However, it is clear that Obama really has it in for your evil air conditioner; remember this gem from the campaign:

"We can't drive our SUVs and eat as much as we want and keep our homes on 72 degrees at all times ... and then just expect that other countries are going to say OK,"

Clearly, neither of these two has ever been seven months pregnant in Texas in August, or they might understand why one might reasonably want to keep their house at 72 degrees.

True, smart grid technology could represent a much needed upgrade in our electric infrastructure and provide a valuable tool for energy independence; however, given the Obama administration’s combination of zeal for regulating CO2 and hostility towards expanding reliable sources of energy – like natural gas, coal, and nuclear – smart grid technology under his administration is likely to become a rationing device when electricity production fails to keep pace with demand.

The damaging effects of cap-and-trade to our already weakened economy are so obvious that even democrats in Congress are beginning to balk at the idea. Ominously, that won’t slow the power grab down much; Obama can then fall back on the EPA and regulation of CO2 under the Clean Air Act. Unfortunately, reckless expansion of government under the guise of combating global warming is a bipartisan affliction. During the last presidential campaign, John McCain supported measures to curb global warming.

Stewardship of our natural resources and energy independence are worthwhile goals that will lead to a stronger economy and country. However, rationing CO2 emissions fits neither of those goals and will set us on a destructive path towards a weaker economy, and worse, these policies directly threaten our individual liberties. Our founding fathers warned about the perils of surrendering liberty for security, but that is exactly what we are being led to do. Submitting ourselves and our country to these regulations is tantamount to surrendering liberty for security – security from a threat whose existence has not even been proven.

No comments: