Energy Bill Draft Capitulates On Global Warming

Little is more insulting these days than an accusation of French sensibilities. Sometimes, however, the chaussure simply fits, and rarely better than in analogy to the “climate change” title of the just-completed “staff draft” Senate energy bill. It does contain some sensible proposals to provide the conditions so that private capital can be attracted to rebuild and enlarge the energy infrastructure, provide more access to some of our energy resources on federal land, and for once omitted any renewable portfolio standard. But Kyoto Joe Lieberman (D-CT) and his cohorts didn't even have to go through <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags” />Belgium for their “climate change” spoils, merely the Republican-run Energy Committee. This may be by now predictable, yet it remains deeply disappointing, and politically and economically inane.This bill preemptively capitulates on what administration officials have regrettably testified as being the necessary “institutions” to enable implementation of a Kyoto-style “cap-and-trade” system for greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide. This stunt occurs in the energy bill because CO2 is in fact a necessary product—not a pollutant—of oxidizing carbon based fossil fuels such as coal, oil and methane. By capping energy use emissions, you cap fossil fuel use, and thereby ration use of affordable energy sources. That is the Kyoto Protocol, by any name, and under any political sponsorship.Specifically, Title XI in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee's majority staff draft is an olio of bad bills and amendments left over from last Congress's late push for anything that could be called an “energy bill.” Although conservative opponents of Kyoto-style policies supported some of this appeasement, they did so in an effort to blunt even worse tricks thrown into the anti-energy bill by Senators Tom Daschle (D-SD), John Kerry (D-MA), Lieberman and Jim Jeffords (I-VT).There is no reason now, however, for newly empowered Republicans to begin the global warming debate with last year's desperate last-ditch compromise efforts. This is particularly true given that each month yields further exposure of the inadequacies of the political “science” documents that have brought this scary tale to the forefront of U.S. policy debate. The more climate nonsense the Senate puts in its energy bill, the harder the House will have to work to take it out, which will make them appear anti-environmental in an even-numbered year. Unwise, non?Naturally, as policy, the climate title will give global warming alarmists the legal, bureaucratic and lobbying weapons needed to force energy rationing on American consumers and producers. Politically, the climate title looks like a Kerry or Lieberman campaign document.President Bush's climate plan, currently being pursued absent any specific legislative mandates, does include portions of this title: modifying the voluntary emissions registry, which the Department of Energy is working on now; developing climate and technology research strategies, which the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration and Energy Department are working on now; and an inter-agency task force, which has been in operation since 2001.The egregious portions of Title XI, however, are found in its a) creation of a new White House Climate Czar and Office of Climate Policy; b) requiring a new national strategy to cut greenhouse gas emissions plus annual progress reports to Congress; and c) establishing a government program to award early action credits for cutting greenhouse gas emissions.A White House Climate Czar and Office institutionalizes global warming as a major problem, meaning that it will never go away. Single-mission agencies are captured by their clients, become lobbyists for their issue, cannot objectively evaluate the costs of their policies, and are never abolished. If there had been a Little Ice Age Czar when global temperatures were declining in the 1810s, he would still exist and be urging immediate action.The annual scare reports and “national strategy” will be used to foment alarm over administration inaction. Implementing the draft's strategic objectives yields enormous costs without any benefits. The scientific case for alarmism has been collapsing, therefore it is no basis for policy. But the goals specified in the national strategy require implementation of that very alarmist agenda – less energy and higher prices.Awarding early action credits for making “voluntary” emissions reductions creates a powerful big business cartel to lobby for a cap: No appreciable market will exist for credits unless it is mandatory. Thus early action credits only assume value upon a cap. Awarding credits for early action gives holders of those credits a strong incentive to lobby to make “voluntary” targets mandatory.This was Enron's grand scheme to cash in on alarmism. It seems to be working, if too late for Enron. The White House position on this remains unclear, although it is safe to bet that not even implementation of the Kyoto Protocol would draw a veto. Already, White House staff has called key Senate offices telling them to lay off the climate-title-bashing. Appeasement does not work.

It is equally futile to give away only the deed to the store, but not management, priding yourself on cleverly maintaining control. Given the serious economic stakes, it is time for responsible congressional Republicans to get tough on “climate change.” History shows Republicans are not rewarded for election year green appeasement, and the science dictates at most further inquiry, not speeding down the Road to Kyoto. Or Vichy.