Cap and Traitors

Conservative activists are angry at eight Republican members of the House of Representatives for voting in favor of the American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES), which passed the House June 26.

They are right to be angry, but their outrage is misplaced. With the exception of New Jersey's Rep. Christopher H. Smith, these so-called RINOs (Republicans in name only) represent districts that voted for President Obama after he campaigned on a promise to fight global warming at any cost. As such, they were only following the misguided will of their constituents.

Indeed, economic conservatives need to look beyond party lines to find the real "cap-and-traitors." To be a traitor, one has to betray his or her constituents. By that definition, many treacherous votes were cast June 26 for ACES, also known as the Waxman-Markey bill. The legislation is a compendium of harebrained environmentalist policies designed to make energy more expensive and force people to emit fewer greenhouse gases, thought to cause global warming.

Consider all the Democratic members of Congress from heartland states who sold their constituents down the river by supporting ACES. Led by Rep. Collin C. Peterson of Minnesota, these rural Democrats auctioned their votes to the administration and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, even though the economic burden of a cap-and-trade scheme falls disproportionately on their own coal-dependent states. In exchange for concessions to the powerful agribusiness lobby, which donates heavily to candidates, these lawmakers agreed to support legislation that harms the voters who sent them to Washington.

Texas is a major producer and user of hydrocarbon energy, so you wouldn't expect Waxman-Markey to win much support there. Yet Rep. Gene Green, Texas Democrat, traded his vote for concessions to refineries, which also donate big to campaigns.

Rep. Rick Boucher of Virginia, the voice of coal interests in the Democratic Party, claims to have earned a seat at the dinner table with his early and eager support of cap-and-trade. The problem is that the coal industry is on the menu. After all, as Mr. Obama told the San Francisco Chronicle, cap-and-trade is designed to "bankrupt" coal-fired power plants.

Rep. Alan Grayson, Florida Democrat, came cheap. All he wanted for his vote was enough money for a hurricane-research center in his district, according to the Politico.

The list of sellouts goes on, but you get the point. Suffice it to say: In the week before the June 26 vote, the Waxman-Markey legislation grew by 600 pages to accommodate all the special favors Mrs. Pelosi had used to buy off members of her own caucus.

Then there are the mysteries. Rep. Zack Space, Ohio Democrat, voted for ACES even though he represents a district that went against Mr. Obama in a state that relies on coal for energy. New Jersey's Mr. Smith voted for the bill, though his constituents voted for Sen. John McCain in November and his district is home to a coal-fired power plant. Maybe these gentlemen are true global-warming alarmists. More likely, they may have been swayed by some beneficial provision tucked away in the bill's dense 1,500 pages. Only the lobbyists can know for sure.

None of this is to say conservatives should go easy on Republicans. Indeed, they should be outraged that Rep. Jeff Flake, Arizona Republican, who actually claims to be a conservative, missed the vote altogether to attend a beauty pageant. Talk about misplaced priorities.

There are cap-and-traitors outside of Congress, too. Several major American corporations – including Caterpillar Inc. (why their shareholders put up with this is a mystery), Dow Chemical Co., Alcoa Inc. and General Electric Co. – banded together to form the U.S. Climate Action Partnership and lobby for cap-and-trade.

They seek a specific policy designed to guarantee short-term windfall profits at the expense of American energy consumers. These companies' combined support gave Waxman-Markey's supporters a crucial talking point on the claimed economic benefits of "doing something" about climate change.

What did the proverbial 30 pieces of silver buy? Not much, at least in terms of global warming. Using the same emissions scenarios employed by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, environmental scientist Chip Knappenberger of the Institute for Energy Research calculates that the American Clean Energy and Security Act would reduce global warming by nine-hundredths of 1 degree Fahrenheit, at a cost of hundreds of billions of dollars.

Clearly, this bill is all pain and no gain. When the pain hits, citizens should remember who imposed it on them.