Moderate No More

Moderate No More

Horner Op-Ed in Tech Central Station
February 20, 2003

That stint on the Democratic Ticket - and the concomitant six months on the road with "Earth in the Balance" author Al Gore - made quite a mark on Senator and presidential aspirant Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.). Since that time he has, among other things, teamed up with frequent George W. Bush nemesis John McCain to introduce some hard green global warming legislation ("McCain-Lieberman"). The legislation would implement a so-called "cap-and-trade" scheme similar to the Kyoto Protocol designed to reduce energy use.

Episodes of Lieberman erratically donning his green religious vestments have become so common that it now appears the time spent with Mr. Gore has transformed the former Senate moderate. Back in 1997, a unanimous Senate instructed Clinton-Gore to reject any international "climate" agreement that would either significantly harm the U.S. economy, or would not treat U.S. trade competitors the same as the U.S. Indeed, Sen. Lieberman at the time expressed particular concern over the latter. After then-Vice President Gore rushed to Kyoto to encourage "increased flexibility" by U.S. negotiators, the U.S. signed a treaty covering only 38 countries. These include industrial titans Liechtenstein, Iceland, Belarus and Bulgaria in addition to the U.S., threatening 140 non-players such as China, Mexico, India, Indonesia, Brazil, South Korea with nothing but direct and indirect wealth transfer. But after Kyoto was signed, Senator Lieberman asserted on PBS' "The News Hour" that "Yes, [Kyoto's] a good agreement." By any account, that is a whopping flip-flop, offering a taste of things to come. The McCain-Lieberman legislation seeks to implement the unratified Kyoto Treaty, with two distinctions. First, coming as it does five years later, McCain-Lieberman tweaks Kyoto's target and timetable. Second, McCain-Lieberman doesn't merely exclude much of the rest of the world; it includes none of it. In seeking carbon dioxide cap-and-trade, Lieberman now advocates what the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) compares (unfavorably) to an energy tax. Indeed, the green group Resources for the Future says CO2 cap-and-trade is actually up to five times as expensive as an energy tax given the inefficiencies accompanying such a backdoor maneuver. This amounts to an awfully cruel hike in energy costs for electricity and automobility to the significant detriment of seniors and the poor. But on the same "News Hour" program, Lieberman asserted about global warming policy, "I think that taxes are off the table." What happened to change his mind? Other clues to Lieberman's looming Gore-like predilections toward energy suppression were available in his characterization of Kyoto's "CO2 cap-and-trade" scheme as "a non-governmental, non-bureaucratic approach." To which his "News Hour" debating partner Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas rightly replied, "If this isn't bureaucratic, I don't represent Kansas." Sen. Roberts, you're not in Kansas anymore. Who said there'd be no "Bush-Gore in '04"?