Let me be up front. I’m a dyed-in-the-wool, Reagan conservative and I believe we ought to avoid unnecessary risks from a changing climate. Our country needs a bipartisan energy-and-climate policy.
Last month, President Obama called on Congress to “pass bipartisan, market-based climate change” in his State of the Union in order to “act before it’s too late.” And if Congress doesn’t act, he will. That’s not an empty threat – the president has the authority and indeed a legal mandate to extend the heavy hand of government into every corner of our energy economy.
Conservatives have a choice to make: Either put forth a solution that creates jobs and doesn’t grow government, or accept the status-quo trajectory of economy-wide command-and-control regulation of greenhouse gases by 2018 (when EPA rules for new power plants will come into force). The latter choice would make the GOP complicit in one of the largest expansions of federal regulatory power in recent history.
And complicity looks more and more likely. There is no appetite in Congress for action on climate right now. In 2009, House Democrats passed a job-killing, cap-and-trade bill that would have increased energy prices across the board, decimated American manufacturing, codified special treatment for the well-connected and resulted in a messy expansion of the federal government. Republicans were right to oppose and reject it.
But governing requires more than spiking bad bills. Conservatives have a history of offering solutions but unfortunately, without new solutions from conservatives, we’re stuck with the status-quo. The president realizes there is no will to act on climate so he’s gearing-up for executive action much more destructive than cap-and-trade.
Dialing up the EPA to regulate climate couldn’t be a worse decision for American businesses or manufacturers. For starters, companies need certainty now more than ever when making long-term business decisions. They need a firm price signal in the market as opposed to an administrative bureaucrat at the EPA controlling day-to-day regulations.
According to a study released by the National Association of Manufacturers late last year, increased regulation by the EPA would prohibit job creation and result in increased compliance costs and higher energy prices at a time when our economy is still struggling to gain solid footing. The study also found that six new EPA rules regulating our nation’s power sector would result in more than $110 billion in new compliance costs for American businesses and manufacturers. And that’s a $110 billion dead-weight economic loss. It’s a stealth tax that fails to bring in revenue; a tax that can’t be used to pay down rates on other taxes. Simply put, it’s the worst kind of tax conceivable.
If you think the judicial system had its hands full with Obamacare, just wait until you see the lawsuits thrown in federal courts across the country to challenge the EPA’s new rules. The last thing we need when our country is struggling to create jobs and get back on track to global competitiveness is more lawsuits. Valuable time and money would ultimately be wasted by the executive branch trying to defend the EPA when it should be working for the American taxpayer and middle-income families.
And keep in mind that the EPA regulatory regime exists solely within U.S. borders and has zero authority over China and India. The regulation of power plants would do nothing to spur China and India into action; however, it would do a lot to encourage our manufacturers to ship more jobs overseas.
We’ve already had one recent cram-down in the form of Obamacare and we’re currently enjoying the fruits of that to the tune of higher insurance premiums for families and the rebellion of disenchanted governors.
Conservatives are the only hope we have to avoid the status quo of EPA regulation. Let’s put forth a climate policy based on conservative principles and give the American people a viable, pro-growth solution to a problem that more and more Americans care about.
Let’s do a dollar-for-dollar tax swap that untaxes income and shifts the tax base onto pollution – tax the bad and quit taxing the good. Folks’ electricity and gas prices would go up, but so would individuals’ paychecks in order to pay for the higher energy costs.
Enough progressives in the president’s corner want a price on greenhouse-gas pollution so badly that it would be really tough for the president to veto such a policy. In fact, conservatives have so much leverage in climate policy that there are a host of sweeteners they could attach to a revenue-neutral carbon tax. For example, with a price on greenhouse-gas pollution, there would be no compelling justification for the suite of wasteful government programs subsidizing clean energy technologies. Let’s get rid of all the energy subsidies.
Free enterprise is the best tool we have to clean up the air, create jobs and empower American ingenuity (not Washington bureaucrats) to deliver American energy security. And it’s our only escape from EPA intervention.