When it comes to cap-and-trade, give federalism a chance

Supporters of cap-and-trade often make bold claims about climate change legislation.  Rapturous-sounding rhetoric such as “this legislation will create jobs by the millions, save money by the billions and unleash investment in clean energy by the trillions,” is common in the cap-and-trade debate.  Indeed, proponents typically describe cap-and-trade as the equivalent of a giant magic job Pez dispenser.

I am convinced they are wrong.  Cap-and-trade legislation will only cap our economy and trade American jobs overseas.  There are many devastating analyses of the costs and effectiveness of cap-and-trade legislation.  Let me share just one.

The Danish academic and author, Bjorn Lomborg, has found that even if the entire industrialized world enacted U.S. style cap and trade legislation, world temperatures would drop by only 0.22 degrees by 2100.  Meanwhile, Jim Manzi, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute calculates the “expected costs” of cap-and-trade to the American people are “at least 10 times the expected benefits.”  President Obama himself acknowledged that, “Under my plan of a cap-and-trade system, electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket.”

In other words, cap-and-trade will raise the price of gasoline, electricity, food, and just about everything else, destroy millions of jobs, prolong the recession, and all that for just 0.22 degrees temperature reduction by 2100!  If the banker phoned in with this offer, like most Americans, I would respond, “No deal.”

I recognize there are many who do not reach the same policy conclusions I do.  In fact, there are a good number of individuals who believe that intentionally increasing energy costs during a recession is necessary.  They are genuinely convinced that imposing a complicated web of new federal mandates and “green” regulations will lead to an economic renaissance.

Despite their sincerity, neither I, nor my constituents, desire to partake in their risky theories.

Fortunately, there is a political solution that enables both sides in this debate to get what we want.  Instead of imposing a top-down carbon-focused reorganization of our $14 trillion economy on a divided public, I’m willing to let cap-and-traders reap all the “benefits” of climate change legislation–all the jobs and economic prosperity they are so confident it will bring about.  States eager to impose carbon caps should be allowed to do so.

All I ask is that proponents not impose cap and trade on states choosing to address climate change in a different fashion.

There are regions of this country where cap-and-trade policies may be popular.  Some people residing in the Northeast, urban areas, and certain coastal regions appear to support cap-and-trade policies.  At least the Congressional representatives in these areas seem eager to implement strict carbon regimes on their citizens.

Again, I say–let them. Then let’s wait a few years and see what happens.

My proposal invokes one of the most important, and sadly, most forgotten of the political insights of the Founders, the concept of federalism. Federalism is based on the simple premise that not all policy solutions must come from Washington. It empowers states to attempt innovative policy without subjecting unwilling participants to mandates they oppose. It allows the country as a whole to learn from policy experimentation and leaves states free to implement their own policy solutions when a national consensus is lacking.

State policy experimentation is not a new or untested idea.  Today there are more than 200 compacts that allow groups of states to cooperate on environmental, economic, transportation and other problems.  In fact, there was a time when the states were routinely viewed as “laboratories of democracy.”   The Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis once wrote “It is one of the happy incidents of the federal system that a single courageous State may, if its citizens choose, serve as a laboratory; and try novel social and economic experiments without risk to the rest of the country.”

If cap-and-trade is the Shangri-La supporters think it will be, let it be proven and other states will follow.  Likewise, if it doesn’t work, other states can learn from its failure and avoid the same mistakes.  I was delighted this week to see that California’s Gov. Schwarzenegger has grasped this important insight.  As they say, more power to them.

It’s time those of us in Washington realized that the United States is a diverse, vibrant nation with varying demographics, needs, and concerns.  Congress does not have to send to the President a one-size-fits-all bill mandating a nationwide cap-and-trade regime.  With cap-and-trade legislation, as in many other policy areas, we should give federalism a chance.

Congressman Rob Bishop (UT-01) is the Chairman of the Congressional Western Caucus.

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  • nocorporatepersonhood

    I am also concerned for American jobs. If you truly are as well, I would encourage you to abandon another idea that is a bigger fantasy that global warming. The notion of a “free market”

    Please impose severe tax penalty’s for any corporations that outsource jobs to other countries and bring back tariffs because we as American’s can not compete with Chinese labor.

    We have been losing millions of jobs overseas for years and you have done nothing. Don’t try and act concerned about that now.

    In case you are wondering I am against cap and trade because it is obvious scheme to make money. If we want to protect the environment lets just put limits on pollution. We don’t need a new trading scheme where a small minority gets rich, while the rest of us sacrifice. If I am going to sacrifice, I want something tangible like not having to worry about the quality of my drinking water or not seeing my beach loaded with garbage and bacteria after it rains.

  • lamecherry

    As long as it is Alexander Hamilton, George Washington, John Adams and Ronald Reagan Federalism as the rest is all dictatorship.

    For the facts, deep earth produces methane ice, crude oil and natural gas using carbon, air, liquid and earth. The fact is the Bible notes that the earth atmosphere was heavier than it is now in gases, and people lived longer, plants grew larger as did animals. (A mist came up from the earth to water it.)

    The earth has been taking billions of tons of carbon and oxygen out of the atmosphere for thousands of years. The net result is the earth is much drier. Mankind has a logical process in this to release these hydrocarbons back into the atmosphere to help the earth. The release is in burning them releasing the gases again to help create the natural atmosphere earth should have.

    Of course I will not be awarded a Noble Prize for these revolutionary findings, because cap and trade is about stealing American money and filtering back into European banks in an economic war. The fact is though people have a responsibility to assist earth in burning as much carbon fuel as possible to help bring back balance to the earth’s atmosphere.

  • spr8er

    every thinking american supports taking care of our environment,the key to get all involved will be a rational,well thought out one is willing to revert to living in huts and traveling by horse and buggy {al gore included}.the sky is falling approach and false claims of immediate financial rewards does nothing except polarize and politicize the jobs will come and at some point as technology advances will likely become a boon industry.most opposition arises from the extreme and urgent measures proposed and at such a perilous time for our economy.kind of mirrors the thoughts on health care huh?mankind will solve this problem,just as we have solved problems in the past.a healthy economy that fosters new investments will be this issues best friend.

  • petrak

    Virginiacbs – I understand federalism. My point was that “if” you accept that we need to decrease our consumption of carbon burning fuels, then we need to share in this equally. Rep. Bishop does not actually state his position on this issue an I was not expressing an opinion one way or the other. We probably disagree on what “you” encompasses. I recognize that there are differing opinions on the impact of burning carbon, but I do believe that all human-beings regardless of where they live, have a vested interest in maintaining a safe environment. I believe that we need to make the best decision we can on whether carbon harms the environment, which not everyone will agree, and then explore whether federalism is the best way to address whatever problem we have identified.

    • virginiacbs

      Regardless of his views on carbon emissions, Rep. Bishop makes it pretty clear that he doesn’t support cap-and-trade so I don’t think he’s addressing this piece to those who have already made up their mind that we need to reduce carbon consumption. He’s addressing the very real and present effort in Congress to push through a cap-and-trade system.

      The key is that federalism will align people’s choices much better than any command-and-control, top-down regulation ever could. That seems to me to be an inarguable point. As long as there is a clear lack of consensus on the problems carbon emissions present and whether we can/should attempt to minimize carbon based fuels, federalism provides the best solution.

  • petrak

    If you accept the idea that we need to decrease the consumption of carbon burning energy in order to reduce its’ harmful effects on the environment, then it would seem to me that we should all share in this equally. I am not opposed to the idea of allowing states to address this issue, but Rep. Bishop does not outline any plan to encourage states to enact legislation to reduce energy consumption. 50 different plans of varying effectiveness from almost no impact to shouldering an unfair share of the burden is not equitable for all citizens. What is his plan to encourage federalism to address this issue?

    • virginiacbs

      Petrak – I think you misunderstand the point of federalism. The virtue of a federalist approach is that all states wouldn’t have to “share the burden” in an equitable fashion. The people in many states and regions of this country are not convinced we need to decrease the consumption of carbon. Should they be forced to do so simply because people like you believe they should? If you, and the majority of your neighbors are willing to bear a significant burden to reduce carbon, as Mr. Bishop says, more power to you. Federalism allows more people to choose and live under policies they support. How can that not be a good thing?

      • nocorporatepersonhood

        How can that sometimes be a bad thing?

        Lets say some people do not “believe” that dumping chemicals in the water/air does not affect the quality of the water/air or maybe they just don’t believe the risk of the polluted water/air outweighs the economic benefit of doing it. At what point do you say sorry pal, but I don’t care what you believe but you can’t be fouling up my water and air!

    • des1

      “If you accept the idea that we need to decrease the consumption of carbon burning energy in order to reduce its’ harmful effects on the environment”

      What if you’ve actually researched the issue and have come to the conclusion that the people preaching carbon controls are charlatans who are attempting to force people to change their livelihoods for a variety of selfish and destructive reasons (not the least of which is their personal enrichment).

      So I should have to pay an extra $2000 – $4000 a year because of your religious beliefs (and to make sure Al Gore can go down in history as the first billionaire to get there exclusively through a con)? Global warming is a sham. Cap & Trade is a sham as well (Europe has seen the theft of billions through Cap & Trade fraud). Even if you believe in both, the current legislative proposal does NOTHING to alter the world situation. Propose something that makes a difference and perhaps even those of us who don’t ascribe to the Church of Gore will seriously consider it. Until then, just do what most people who believe in false prophets do….send him YOUR money, not mine.

  • virginiacbs

    Bravo! This is a refreshing take on the issue of climate change. Great idea.