Obama Climate Plan Would Ignore Congress, Force Large Price Hikes

Published October 24, 2008

With the United States on the precipice of a deep and prolonged economic recession, presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama’s energy advisor, Jason Grumet, is promising to deal yet another blow to the economy in the form of significantly higher energy prices.

Asserting that Congress is not moving fast enough to limit carbon dioxide emissions, Grumet is promising an Obama administration would direct the Environmental Protection Agency, which is not accountable to voters for the economic pain of environmental regulations, to draft hard rules to reduce the availability of inexpensive fossil fuels.

Significantly restricting the availability of inexpensive fossil fuels would deliver yet another staggering blow to the economy even as the nation faces its worst economic crisis since the  Depression.

The Democrat-controlled Congress has had ample opportunity to pass legislation restricting carbon dioxide, but for many reasons wisely has chosen not to. Congress has been deterred from rash action by the steep economic pain it would cause, an already-shrinking U.S. greenhouse gas footprint, the realization that reductions in U.S. emissions will be meaningless unless China and other rapidly developing nations enact similar restrictions, and the growing body of scientific evidence against a global warming crisis.

Restricting inexpensive fossil fuels will have a devastating effect on energy prices. The Congressional Budget Office reports that reducing greenhouse gas emissions by a mere 15 percent would cost the average household nearly 3 percent of its income. A family making $50,000 per year would be forced to pay an extra $1,400 every year in higher prices for electricity and gasoline-related purchases.

Obama, moreover, contends cutting emissions by 15 percent is not enough, and has proposed requiring much steeper and costlier cuts by a mindboggling 80 percent.

The United States bears absolutely no blame for the ongoing growth of greenhouse gas emissions: U.S. emissions have been flat since 2000. When factors such as no-till farming and other carbon-sequestering programs are taken into account, the United States’ greenhouse gas footprint has shrunk since 2000.

With the world’s leading greenhouse gas emitter, China, increasing its carbon dioxide emissions by 11 percent every year, and with other rapidly industrializing nations following suit, punishing U.S. consumers for global emissions growth is like punishing Celine Dion for the growth of gangster rap.

Even entirely eliminating U.S. emissions would have little if any impact on global totals. In the year 2000 China’s emissions were only half of the United States, but in less than a decade China has overtaken the U.S. and opened up a sizable and growing lead. Within another decade China’s emissions will double America’s. Factoring in the rapid emissions growth in India, Indonesia, and other industrializing nations, entirely eliminating U.S. emissions would have virtually no effect at all on total emissions into Earth’s atmosphere.

Even more importantly, scientists are reporting that carbon dioxide emissions are having a much smaller impact on global temperatures than previously thought. NASA atmospheric temperature measurements show the Earth has been cooling for the past seven years, and global temperatures are no higher now than they were in 1980. NASA climate scientist Dr. Roy Spencer reports natural forces, not carbon dioxide, are responsible for most of the 20th Century warming.

Congress has wisely weighed all these considerations, and chosen not to rush into irresponsible, economically toxic restrictions. Obama’s plan to circumvent Congress and give EPA power to force significant carbon dioxide cuts will make the looming economic recession far worse than it needs to be.

James M. Taylor ([email protected]) is senior fellow for environment policy at The Heartland Institute