By Charles Drevna, National Petrochemical & Refiners Association
Posted on the National Journal’s Energy & Environment blog
“First, do no harm.” This guiding principle of medical care should become a guiding principle for our elected officials as well. And there is no better place to apply this principle than energy legislation now being cobbled together for consideration by the Senate.
Unfortunately, the guiding principle behind many of the proposals discussed by Senate Democrats up to now seems to be “let’s do something.” What senators need to keep in mind is that doing the wrong thing is worse than doing nothing at all.
Senators need to reject environmental extremists who seem to find something wrong with every existing form of energy. In their zeal to reach the energy age of the Jetsons, some seem determined to throw us back to the age of the Flintstones.
While restrictions on carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions may sound like a good idea at first glance, in reality they would strike a devastating blow against the American people.
Carbon restrictions would slap billions of dollars in hidden taxes on every American family and business, wipe out millions of jobs, raise the costs of gasoline and other forms of energy, and accelerate the exodus of businesses and jobs abroad.
A cap and trade system like the one passed by the House and supported by some Democrats in the Senate is based on a complex and confusing scheme to pick the pockets of families and job-creating businesses. The scheme would enable Wall Street speculators to make fortunes trading emissions permits in a giant casino, and raise the cost of many types of energy and the products produced with that energy.
If Rube Goldberg were alive today and was asked to design an energy tax, he’d be hard-pressed to outdo the supporters of the Kerry-Lieberman bill that fell flat in the Senate and the Waxman-Markey bill that passed in the House.
A poll conducted earlier this month of 6,000 registered voters in 10 states by Harris Interactive for the American Petroleum Institute found that 64 percent opposed higher taxes on the U.S. oil and natural gas industry. There was no leading question designed to get any preconceived result. The poll simply asked: “Do you support or oppose raising taxes on the oil and gas industry?”
Voters in the poll said the two most important issues the federal government should deal with are the economy and creating jobs – a finding consistent with other recent national polls. These two issues should be paramount in any legislation taken up by the Senate.
The Kerry-Lieberman bill was abandoned – for now at least – by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid because senators understood that with an election less than four months away, voting for massive new energy taxes, no matter how well disguised, would be hazardous to their political health.
Carbon restrictions would result in all pain and no gain. That’s because if global issues like carbon emissions are to be addressed, the only effective way to do so is to address them globally.
No matter what unilateral actions the United States takes, carbon emissions will grow from India, China, and other rapidly modernizing nations. Since everyone on Earth shares the same common atmosphere, the carbon emitted abroad has the same impact as carbon emitted at home.
There are many steps the Senate can consider to encourage energy conservation, improve energy efficiency, and increase research on new energy sources.
My industry favors the use of alternative sources of fuels and materials that are now being developed, once they become commercially viable. However, we oppose special subsidies for non-competitive energy sources that are costing American taxpayers billions of dollars today and could cost far more tomorrow. Uncle Sam’s bank account is already overdrawn.
We favor an even playing field, with the American people choosing by their purchasing decisions which forms of energy and which products best meet their needs at an affordable rate.
While it’s important for Congress and the administration to focus on America’s energy policy for tomorrow, they shouldn’t ignore the energy needs and realities of today.