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The Vote that (may have) Changed the World

By Raymond Richman and Howard Richman, American Thinker

In a procedural vote on April 1, 2009, 26 Democratic Senators joined all of the Republicans in defeating, for now, a climate change bill that would have allowed fast-tracking of President Obama's cap-and-tax proposal so that it could be passed as part of the current Federal budget. (Click here to see how your Senator voted.) Senator Lamar Alexander called this "the biggest vote of the year."

The bill that would have passed would probably have resembled the Waxman-Markey discussion draft of The American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009, a bill proposal designed to combat global warming by encouraging the use of "renewable" energy sources (nuclear energy providers need not apply). So it is possible to look closely at the Waxman-Markey draft to see what the Senate rejected.

The draft is full of subsidies, while at the same time providing that electric utilities impose energy and efficiency standards on their customers to achieve one percent reduction of carbon emissions in 2012 increasing to 15 percent in 2020. (If renewable energy is going to be so plentiful and cheap, why does it require tremendous subsidies and command and control methods to achieve its goals?) But the worst part of the bill by far is its plan to auction rights to emit carbon dioxide in order to fight global warming, as noted in the bill's summary:

Global Warming Pollution Reduction Program. The draft establishes a market-based program for reducing global warming pollution from electric utilities, oil companies, large industrial sources, and other covered entities that collectively are responsible for 85% of U.S. global warming emissions. Under this program, covered entities must have tradable federal permits, called "allowances," for each ton of pollution emitted into the atmosphere. Entities that emit less than 25,000 tons per year of CO2 equivalent are not covered by this program. The program reduces the number of available allowances issued each year to ensure that aggregate emissions from the covered entities are reduced by 3% below 2005 levels in 2012, 20% below 2005 levels in 2020, 42% below 2005 levels in 2030, and 83% below 2005 levels in 2050.

According to the Waxman-Markey draft, the bill "will create millions of new clean energy jobs, save consumers hundreds of billions of dollars in energy costs, enhance America's energy independence, and cut global warming pollution." None of this is true. This bill orders electric utilities to substitute expensive solar and wind power for inexpensive coal, oil, and natural gas. It would cause a loss of jobs in coal mining, oil drilling, and natural gas drilling. It would cost consumers higher prices for not only energy but for almost everything else they buy. As for enhancing America's energy independence, a bigger and faster contribution would be made by permitting offshore oil drilling, by encouraging drilling in Alaska, or by overriding Senator Harry Reid's opposition to developing a nuclear waste storage facility in Nevada.

Environmentalists are willing to let the BRIC countries (Brazil, India and China) postpone for decades meeting environmental standards because doing so would stifle their growth, but they want us unilaterally to immediately cut back on using carbon fuels, falsely claiming this will help our economy.

The worst effects of the bill would be upon United States competitiveness in international trade, thus chasing American manufacturing jobs to Brazil, India and China. In a new book just published by the Peterson Institute for International Economics, the authors pointed out that any climate bill would drive up the cost of American products, making them less competitive in U.S. and world markets, unless it includes border provisions, such as export subsidies and import duties.

The draft does contain weak provisions to keep American jobs from moving overseas, but those provisions entirely depend upon bureaucratic discretion. Here is the relevant part of the summary:

Ensuring Domestic Competitiveness. To ensure that U.S. manufacturers are not put at a disadvantage relative to overseas competitors, the draft authorizes companies in certain industrial sectors to receive "rebates" to compensate for additional costs incurred under the program. Sectors that use large amounts of energy, and produce commodities that are traded globally, would be eligible for the rebates. If the President finds that the rebate provisions do not sufficiently correct competitive imbalances, the President is directed to establish a "border adjustment" program. Under that program, foreign manufacturers and importers would be required to pay for and hold special allowances to "cover" the carbon contained in U.S.-bound products.

Don't expect much help for U.S. manufacturers from this provision. Rebates and border adjustments would violate WTO rules. Our leaders have complied, even while those WTO rules produced huge trade deficits, costing us about seven million good paying manufacturing jobs. Foreign governments continue to exploit huge holes in the WTO rules, as through currency manipulations, while the United States government does nothing. The chances of the United States government violating WTO rules in order to stand up for American industry are very low.

The bill clearly imposes huge costs upon the American economy in a rush to combat global warming, but the earth is actually cooling at present. The bill's supporters are ignoring an alternative to the carbon dioxide theory, cosmoclimatology, which holds that changes in cosmic ray influx cause global temperature changes. Cosmic rays cause ionization that forms low level clouds which reflect the sun's heat back into space, resulting in lower temperatures. Sunspots fit into this theory because solar activity blocks out cosmic rays, leading to temporary periods of warming. For a recent summary of the sound evidence behind this theory, see Danish scientist Henrik Svensmark's 2007 paper.

Cosmoclimatology theory explains the extreme warmth of the second half of the 20th Century as resulting from unusually high solar activity, and the cooling period since 1998 as a result of reduced solar activity. Unlike the carbon dioxide theory, it explains the close correspondence between the earth's greenhouse ages and ice ages with the movements of the solar system through the spiral arms of the galaxy. It even explains the fact that Antarctic temperatures show temperature trends opposite from those observed in the northern hemisphere. (The white Antarctic ice reflects more light back into space when there is no cloud cover, while the Northern hemisphere reflects more light back into space when there is cloud cover.)

Cosmoclimatology is a fairly new branch of science. As scientists continue to gather data, they should be able to determine the amount of global warming that is left over for the carbon dioxide theory to explain. Meanwhile, with global temperatures declining as a result of lower sunspot activity, we may even be heading into a mini-ice age, like the one that occurred from 1645-1715, when sunspots were extremely scarce.

With the earth cooling at present, the pressing question is not whether Washington saves the planet from global warming. The pressing question is whether Washington destroys the American economy. Thirty-one Democratic senators just voted to do so. The fact that 26 Democratic Senators crossed party lines to vote against quick passage of cap-and-tax is a very good sign for America's economic future.