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'Green' Agenda Soaks Taxpayers

Wednesday, 22 Apr 2009 01:44 PM

By Ernest Istook

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The greenest part of Earth Day is not the planet. It’s the money at stake as Congress focuses this week on climate legislation.

Al Gore’s appearance will be the climax of multiple hearings in Congress, as he supports the Waxman-Markey American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009, also called “cap-and-trade,” “cap-and-tax,” or “carbon tax.”

Gore qualifies as a man of green — not only because of his politics, but because his environmentalism has made him a multimillionaire. He’s not alone — tens of billions of government subsidies have greatly profited many.

Someone must pay. The green agenda packs a double wallop in the wallet. Taxpayers are hard hit to pay for the subsidies, plus everyone is hit by higher energy prices caused by energy taxes and regulations.

The poor are hit especially hard because energy costs are a larger portion of their family budgets.

Congress and the White House want to rush through the legislation before more Americans recognize this simple truth: Alternative energy is expensive energy. Whatever its demerits, fossil fuel energy is far cheaper. So is nuclear energy.

That’s why alternative energy represents only a single-digit portion of America’s energy portfolio. That’s why environmentalists need government to push out the competition of traditional energy sources, with mandates that require a certain portion of electricity to come from renewable sources, and dictate more sales of alternative-fuel vehicles.

In an article titled “Consumers start feeling higher costs of clean fuel,” USA Today reports that cost-awareness has just begun: “Clean energy has a dirty secret. It isn't cheap. Consumers already are starting to feel at least a modest pinch in their electric bills.

“The impact is expected to grow in the next few years as utilities accelerate their investments to meet state quotas requiring a portion of clean energy in their generation mix. And bills in Congress would impose a similar national quota, an idea President Obama supports.”

As mandates force increased consumption of renewable energy, the costs are becoming more noticeable. This January, new solar energy sources led to a $4.29 bump up in the monthly utility bill for the average consumer in Tucson, Ariz.

In California, where government dictates the highest level of renewable energy sources in the nation — 20 percent — consumers pay the highest rates in the nation.

The New York Times recently reported that electricity generated from wind costs 50 percent more than power from fossil fuels, and solar-generated electricity costs two to three times more than wind power.

As the Times reported, “Curbing carbon dioxide emissions — a central part of tackling climate change — will almost certainly raise electricity prices, experts say. And increasing the nation’s reliance on renewable energy will in itself raise costs. Fifteen months into a recession, that prospect does not sit well in some quarters.”

The Institute for Energy Research reports, “Despite advocates’ claims to the contrary, wind and solar continue to be the most expensive sources of electricity. . . . Even after 30 years of massive subsidies, wind and solar continue to . . . contribute only a small amount of electricity. In 2008, wind produced 1.3% of the electrical generation in America and solar produced a meager 0.02%.”

Politicians on the left must rush to act before public awareness catches up.

According to Rasmussen Reports, while the economy remains the top issue for most Americans, 40 percent believe there is a conflict between economic growth and environmental protection. And 31 percent see no conflict; 29% aren’t sure. A Pew Research Center Poll shows global warming ranks dead last among U.S. voters’ priorities, and concern is dropping every year.

Do they know what the politicians are doing?

As a candidate, Obama admitted that his energy plan would cause electric bills to “skyrocket.” He wasn’t kidding. His words got little attention then, perhaps because Sen. John McCain also backed some form of a “cap-and-trade” energy tax. McCain recently said, however, that the new proposals go too far and would damage the economy.

There’s another money motive. The deputy director of Obama’s National Economic Council, Jason Furman, admitted the annual costs of cap and trade could reach $250 billion and total $1.9 trillion by 2019, three times the original White House projection. Many in Washington want to use the extra government revenue to pay for nationalized healthcare.

It’s all being carefully orchestrated to make the legislation seem inevitable. A key step was the Environmental Protection Agency’s formal declaration last week that carbon dioxide endangers the public health and welfare because it leads to global warming.

Now the EPA claims the power to control every way that we produce and use energy, in cars, homes, businesses, even the design of everything that uses electricity or a motor.

The bill by Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., and Edward Markey, D-Mass., is falsely touted as salvation from EPA bureaucrats.

That overlooks the obvious answer that Congress could simply pass a bill denying EPA the authority to make its power grab. Doing nothing is not good enough because the EPA’s vast regulatory plans cast an ominous shadow over the economy.

Markey says: "It is now no longer a choice between doing a bill or doing nothing. It is now a choice between legislation and regulation. The EPA will have to act if Congress does not act." The Obama administration issued similar comments.

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., replied, "This administration is playing a game of chicken with Congress over regulations and our economy: Either pass legislation or force economically damaging new regulations on businesses."

Or, as an infamous National Lampoon cover put it, “Buy this magazine, or we’ll shoot this dog!”

Tunnel vision is nothing new in Washington. One of many labor-environmentalist coalitions, Apollo Alliance, is running TV ads touting renewable energy as relief from dependence on foreign oil, but never mentioning that an end to restrictions on domestic drilling might accomplish the same thing.

It’s a reversal of the time when several major unions bucked the environmentalists by supporting drilling in ANWR, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, as a pro-jobs measure.

Strangely, the current recession may be the biggest barrier to this dangerous legislation. Now is the worst time to kill off energy sector and related jobs (3 million could be lost by one estimate).

The notion of green jobs is a red herring. As a study in Spain noted about their eight years of experience with such laws, 2.2 jobs were lost for every green job created.

The environmental agenda is about the green — because they want us to show them the money. Our money.

Ernest Istook, a recovering congressman, is a distinguished fellow at The Heritage Foundation. Visit his personal blog: www.istook.com.

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