Voters repudiate Democrats’ energy agenda

Chris Prandoni Federal Affairs Manager, ATR
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Tuesday’s election codified what polls and candidates have been espousing for months: that cap-and-trade and similar Democratic proposals are enormously unpopular amongst the American people. Of the nineteen freshman Democrats who voted for the Waxman-Markey legislation, twelve of them were sent packing. All in all, a total of 41 Democrats who voted for the bill either lost or retired.

Republicans used votes for cap-and-trade to hammer Democrats. Democrats who didn’t vote with Pelosi used this move to distance themselves from her.

And with good reason, as cap-and-trade proposes the worst of all worlds. It set unrealistic energy reduction standards that supposedly would lower global temperatures by tenths of a degree. The Heritage Foundation calculated that by 2035 Waxman-Markey would:

  • Reduce aggregate gross domestic product (GDP) by $7.4 trillion
  • Destroy 844,000 jobs per year on average, with peak years seeing unemployment rise by over 1,900,000 jobs
  • Raise electricity rates 90 percent after adjusting for inflation
  • Raise inflation-adjusted gasoline prices by 74 percent
  • Raise residential natural gas prices by 55 percent
  • Raise an average family’s annual energy bill by $1,500
  • Increase inflation-adjusted federal debt by 29 percent, or $33,400 additional federal debt per person.

Each one of these stats could be a campaign ad, and many were. Given the state of our economy, Democrats who voted for this bill rightfully appear completely out of touch with the voters. While Democratic members of Congress refused to employ a cost-benefit analysis, the American people did, and they ensured that cap-and-trade and its many iterations are legislatively dead.

Unable to tax or hamper efficient forms of energy through the legislative process, Democrats will use the Environmental Protection Agency to enact their favorite policies — effectively subverting the will of the American people. Obama admitted as much yesterday when he said, “Cap and trade was just one way to skin the cat. It’s not the only way.”

The EPA has proposed dozens of rules and regulations that will affect nearly every industry, from truck manufacturers to energy producers. No stone will be left unturned. Depending on how these rules are implemented, companies may be forced to shut down if they cannot afford to retrofit their facilities to comply with EPA regulations.

Just as cap-and-trade’s goal was to reduce America’s coal consumption, the EPA has proposed numerous rules — the Cooling Tower Rule, the MACT Rule, the Clean Air Transport Rule, and the Coal Combustion Residuals Rule — to put coal companies out of business. At minimum, utilities companies will pass on billions in compliance costs to consumers, raising Americans’ energy bills. Increased energy prices? Job loss? That sounds a lot like the legislation voters repudiated on Tuesday.

With the GOP now in control of the House, Republicans should use their new oversight powers to check the EPA. Republicans jockeying to chair the Energy and Commerce Committee must promise to claw back the EPA’s problematic rulings.

Democrats took a “shellacking.” They should learn from it and call off the EPA if they want to avoid another bloodbath in 2012. If Democrats allow the EPA to stay the course, they will all be guilty of rubberstamping the regulatory equivalent of cap-and-trade.

Christopher Prandoni is a Federal Affairs Manager at Americans for Tax Reform.