Senate votes to kill cap-and-trade?

Well, not overtly, but the Senate voted 89-8 for an amendment to the Fiscal year 2010 budget resolution (S. Con Res. 13), introduced by Sen. John Thune (R-SD), which would prohibit any future greenhouse gas cap-and-trade initiative from increasing gasoline prices and electricity rates for U.S. households and businesses.  

As University of Colorado professor Roger Pielke, Jr. points out, “The entire purpose of cap and trade is in fact to increase the costs of carbon-emitting sources of energy, which dominate US energy consumption. The Thune Amendment thus undercuts the entire purpose of cap and trade.” In other words, it is impossible to vote for the Thune amendment and support cap-and-trade and be consistent, candid, or straight with the American people.

Who voted for the Thune amendment? A whole bunch of cap-and-traders including Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Joe Lieberman (ID-CT), John McCain (R-AZ), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), and John Warner (D-VA).

Boxer tried to square the circle, proposing legislation, adopted 54-43, to compensate consumers for higher energy prices via tax rebates. But rebates after-the-fact are not the same as prohibiting measures that increase energy prices in the first place. Does anyone really believe that if carbon permit auctions under President Obama’s cap-and-trade initiative raise $646 billion or even $1.9 trillion for the Treasury, spendaholics in Congress will not use one dime of the boodle to fund pet projects, “green” jobs, or health-care “reform”?

Pielke, Jr. concludes on a cheery note:

The Thune Amendment effectively kills cap and trade as a mechanism for reducing emissions. I have little doubt that the legislation will go forward, and it likely will pass in some form and do many things. Its just that reducing emissions won’t be among them. Cap and trade is dead, but the charade will go on.

A consumation devoutly to be wished. On the other hand, it ain’t over ’till it’s over. We should not underestimate the capacity of politicians to insist on having their cake and eating it. Again, Boxer pretends to see no contradiction between voting for Thune and supporting Obama’s $646 billion to $1.9 trillion energy tax. The Thune amendment could also be jettisoned or vitiated by House-Senate conferees.

Nonetheless, the Thune amendment shows the path to victory. Cap-and-traders fear public retribution over high electricity and gasoline prices more than they fear the alleged horrors of global warming. Our task is obvious–keep calling cap-and-trade an energy tax, because that is what it is.