Washington, D.C. –U.S. Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., urged senators to vote against new taxes on energy and transportation that are included in global climate change legislation before the Senate today.
"The proposal before us, which is clearly an energy tax, would force the United States to unilaterally disarm its economy and force American jobs overseas," said Enzi.
Enzi said the legislation, proposed by Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz. and Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., is a backdoor approach to implementing the climate change agreement proposed in Kyoto, Japan. The legislation would require U.S. companies to substantially reduce emissions of greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide.
Senators took Enzi's advice and defeated the proposal by a vote of 55-43.
"When the debate first began on the Kyoto talks, the United States Senate drew a line that was not to be crossed by the President and his negotiators in their effort to reach an international climate change agreement. By a vote of 95 to 0 the Senate passed Senate Resolution 98, also known as the Byrd-Hagel Resolution, that sent a clear message to the world that the Senate would not support any climate change agreement that did not include all nations equally or would cause serious harm to our economy," said Enzi. "This same message applies to this proposal."
Enzi said the European Union, which is one of the main proponents of restrictions on greenhouse gas emissions, would benefit economically if the U.S. taxed and regulated itself to comply with the Lieberman bill. Enzi believes the McCain-Lieberman proposal's controls on emissions would also mean controls on transportation costs.
"The U.S. is physically much larger than most of the other nations we compete against and our population is spread over a much wider area. This gives the transportation advantage to places like the European Union because it takes less energy to transport goods and services to the people there," said Enzi. "That's a huge hole we would be digging with this legislation."
Enzi said the costs of the measure would be born by the American consumer, not energy companies.
"I don't think consumers would welcome an increase in gasoline prices of 40 cents more per gallon or 50 percent higher natural gas and electricity bills," said Enzi.
According to the Energy Information Administration the McCain-Lieberman proposal would eliminate 460,000 jobs and reduce Gross Domestic Production by $507 billion over the next two decades.
Russian and Chinese officials have indicated those countries do not favor the Kyoto treaty.
"They face some of the same economic disadvantages that the U.S. faces, such as transportation," said Enzi.
Some experts have also suggested that the environmental gain from the U.S.'s implementation of the taxes and controls in the bill would be negligible.
Senator Michael B. Enzi
S. 139, the Lieberman McCain
Climate Stewardship Act of 2003
Senator Michael B. Enzi
S. 139, the Lieberman McCain
Climate Stewardship Act of 2003
Mr President, Anyone who has picked up a copy of this legislation and read it has to be forgiven if he or she was soon reminded of the words of Yogi Berra, "It's deja vu all over again."
After all, it's not as if this topic is unfamiliar to us. When the debate first began on the Kyoto talks, the United States Senate made a clear and direct statement of principle on the subject. We drew a line that was not to be crossed by the president and his negotiators in their effort to reach an international climate change agreement. By a vote of 95 to 0 the Senate passed Senate Resolution 98, also known as the Byrd-Hagel Resolution, that sent a clear message to the world that the Senate would not support any climate change agreement that did not include all nations equally. We also said we would not support an agreement that would cause serious harm to our economy.
We crafted our message to the Administration to counter the concerns that had been raised that a global climate change policy could be imposed on the United States that would "result in serious harm to the United States economy, including significant job loss, trade disadvantages, and increased energy and consumer costs." The Senate was also concerned that efforts to reduce global emissions would be imposed only on developed nations, where the best emissions controls and most advances in emissions reductions already exist, and not on underdeveloped nations where emissions would continue without any effective controls.
What has changed since then? Nothing.
We still need the benefits of a strong economy. We still need to protect American jobs. And, we still need to avoid trade deficits and ensure consumers are not forced to choose between paying their energy bills and buying food.
We still need to protect American jobs, and global climate change is still a global issue.
Unfortunately, this reality contradicts the language of the proposal we are debating today just as surely as it contradicts the message we sent the Administration with the Byrd/Hagel language.
The proposal before us, which is clearly an energy tax, would force the United States to unilaterally disarm its economy and force American jobs overseas without providing any environmental benefit. An energy tax, like the one proposed by Senators Lieberman and McCain would, in fact, be an environmental nightmare. Any loss of jobs in the United States would shift production to other parts of the world where there are no controls over the manufacturing process.
The best way to help the environment around the world is to ensure we have a strong economy here at home.
If we, as a Senate, really want to stand for improving global conditions then we should stand behind the principles of Byrd-Hagel and insist our global climate change policy does not harm America's workers. If we want to improve global conditions we must insist that all nations responsible for emitting greenhouse gasses participate and reduce their own emissions.
Just in case anyone is not clear about what is going and what this legislation really does, I want to take a moment and explain how it would slow down our economy and force jobs out of the country.
To begin with, the bill establishes a requirement for registering all industrial emissions and it requires the officials in charge to make assumptions about the level of total emissions that are due to transportation.
We can only assume that these assumptions are made for one of two reasons.
We want to know the transportation emissions level so we can blame the rest on industry, or, we want to know the transportation emissions level so we can start to apply limits and regulate family cars. I have had the opportunity to visit California and noticed a remarkable thing about this state that has done so much on its own to regulate and control private vehicles. While the rest of the highway was packed with cars, the HOV lanes were wide open and very poorly utilized. And yet this bill does nothing to account for private vehicles which is a major source of greenhouse gas emissions. I wonder, if this bill was so serious about improving the environment why would it leave out such a major source of emissions?
Don't be fooled. If this program is passed then that will be the next step. Why would we put in place such an ineffective control if we didn't intend to take it to the next step and regulate private transportation? We don't want to, they do.
This proposal would hold industry responsible for all other, nonindustrial or transportation emissions, emissions includint human beings, who breathe out CO2 on a regular basis, animals, plants, volcanoes, forest fires, and private homes that burn natural gas, fuel, coal or wood. Keep in mind that one natural cataclysmic event, such as a volcanic eruption or a catastrophic wildfire eclipses anything, by way of emissions, that all of mankind can produce together on an annual basis.
We also have a situation where our trees that once could have served as sponges to soak up greenhouse gasses, are now older and no longer absorb CO2. In fact, because of the age of many of our forests they are now CO2 emitters.
The bill also completely neglects the most common and prevalent greenhouse gas of all. Of all the gasses found in our atmosphere, this particular gas is the most insidious. It contributes to more fluctuations in temperature than any other gas. It has the greatest impact on local and global climate, and it too is emitted by industry and by numerous natural sources and yet it is not included anywhere in this bill.
What is this gas? It is water vapor, of course. Why, if we are really serious about using this legislation to control temperatures and climate don't we include water? Because this effort is not about environmental protection. It is about imposing an energy tax and controlling the economy.
The next thing the bill does is impose a cap or limit on otherwise unregulated emissions by industry. Once again, this cap does not take into account the emissions generated by other sources. The result is that we would force industry to assume all responsibility and pay for all emissions, regardless of where they come from. Whether the emissions came from individuals or nature, we would still hold industry responsible. There is a new discovery that was recently made in Wyoming that illustrates the lunacy of holding man responsible for something that nature releases on its own in an abundance that man never has.
I will read from an AP article that ran in a Wyoming newspaper on October 27 of this year. "Scientists measuring mercury levels made a starling discovery at the base of Roaring Mountain [in Yellowstone National Park]: possibly the highest levels of mercury ever recorded at an undisturbed natural area." According to their measurements, the scientists found that Yellowstone is a potentially big source of our nation's mercury. "It is conceivable ... that Yellowstone could emit as much mercury as all the coal-fired power plants in Wyoming. ... ‘That's not a real estimate but something based on just a few measurements,' [one of the scientists said] ‘It could be even bigger than that, we just don't know.'"
It would be intellectually dishonest, for us to assume that, given all of the uncertainty in these issues, that industry will sit back and quietly assume the cost and burden of emissions reductions without either passing them on to consumers or finding a way to excuse itself from the limits altogether. The cost of the tax will either be paid by consumers who can barely afford their own energy costs today, or we will force jobs offshore and into areas where there are no limits on energy consumption and pollution.
There should be no doubt in anyone's mind that this bill is all about economics particularly because that's what the entire global warming debate is about. Kyoto was an economic conference disguised as an environmental conference.
EU Commissioner for the Environment Margot Wallstrom once said, "This is not a simple environmental issue where you can say it is an issue where the scientists are not unanimous. This is about international relations, this is about economy, about trying to create a level playing field for big businesses throughout the world. You have to understand what is at stake and that is why it is serious."
I had the opportunity to attend the meetings at Kyoto, and while I was there I met with the Chinese and discussed the role that they thought they should play in meeting the demands of global climate change. They, and all other developing nations have no obligation to participate in any climate change agreement. All they have is voluntary participation, and I can tell you they are not willing to do that.
Should we just sell out to the Chinese?
If we were to adjust global emissions and measure them on a per gross domestic product basis, or in other words, measure the efficiencies and end product gained for each energy unit consumed, the United States would come out, once again, as the most efficient and most productive nation on earth. Europe, on the other hand, come out on the other end of the spectrum.
There are a number of factors that contribute to this imbalance but the biggest reason has to do with the efficiency of the American worker. We produce more goods using less energy than any other nation in the history of the world. We are already milking our industrial output to a point where any additional efficiencies will result in dramatic increases in costs. We have already made the easy adjustments and reduced those emissions that are easiest and cheapest to reduce. The rest of the world is still catching up to us on those respects and it would be easy and cheap for Europe then to reach some of its targets and reduce emissions. All they have to do is use some of the technology we have already invented.
For the United States, however, to make the incremental gains it needs to make to comply with the limits that this bill would impose would require us to either assume costs that would be exponentially greater than those assumed by any other nation, or to push those gains off onto another sector, more specifically the transportation sector, and require us to impose costs on consumers and taxpayers that they clearly cannot afford.
It is a matter of economies of scale and Europe knows it.
The United States is much physically larger than any other nation that we compete against economically. Europe, as a whole, is much smaller, much more densely populated and uses much more efficient transportation. In the United States, we use our trains primarily to carry manufactured goods (as well as clean burning, low sulfur Wyoming coal) while Europe's trains, on the other hand, are used almost exclusively to carry people. It is much more practical for us to fly from Washington, DC to Los Angeles, California and arrive in a matter of hours instead of wasting days on a train. But airplanes burn fuel in great amounts and with much less efficiency than other forms of transportation. The logical and most cost efficient controls then are not to limit emissions on industry but to convert those controls into limitations on transportation.
You can understand why I am greatly disturbed when I see a cap proposal like the one put forward in this bill, especially when it includes calculations on transportation emissions. There is no reason to pass a bill like this, to create the kinds of agencies and offices that the bill creates and not expect it to lead to the next step where its controls over industry emissions, i.e., an energy tax, are converted into controls over transportation, in other words a transportation tax.
Our nation's massive transportation needs will never go away. Nor will Europe ever get bigger. As a result of size, then, the energy, or rather transportation, taxes required by this bill will put the United States at a tremendous economic disadvantage with regard to its competitors.
Fortunately, we are not the only ones to recognize this imbalance. Russia recently joined the United States in rejecting a proposal that would limit its emissions and put a similar damper on its economy. In making a basic cost/benefit analysis President Putin's chief economic advisor, Andrei Illarinov declared, "If we are to double GDP within the next ten years, this will require an average economic growth rate of 7.2 percent. No country in the world can double its GDP with a lower increase in carbon dioxide omissions or with no increase at all."
The great baseball philosopher, Yogi Berra, was right. It is deja vu all over again. These are issues we have considered before and we already have a clear statement of policy in place in the Byrd-Hagel resolution that says, in responding to global climate change concerns, we cannot agree to any proposal that would result in serious harm to the United States economy. It already says we must work to avoid significant job loss, trade disadvantages, and increased energy and consumer costs. It also makes it clear that this is a global issue, one we can't tackle alone. If we, as a Senate, really want to stand for improving global conditions then we should stand behind the principles of Byrd-Hagel and insist our global climate change policy does not harm America's workers and that all nations responsible for emitting greenhouse gasses participate in emissions reductions.
This proposal would clearly cause serious harm to our nation's economy, cost us American jobs and result in a tax on our nation's energy and transportation systems. These taxes would put our nation at a serious disadvantage with our competitors and do nothing to improve our environment.