By: Brian Sikma
As Rep. Henry Waxman (D-California) works to move cap and trade legislation through his House Energy and Commerce Committee, he’s finding it a bit hard to sell the whole idea to members of Congress who come from districts that would be hit hard by carbon taxes. States with heavy industry or states that rely extensively on existing energy sources as part of their economy would be hardest hit with job losses, price increases, and taxes should the legislation pass.
In an effort to secure much needed support, Waxman has started talking to individual members about providing credits to various industries that are a big part of their local economies. While the cap and trade bill would apply across the board to many industries and businesses, specific exemptions for coal fired power plants, for example, would allow them to feel less pain from a new tax and regulatory structure.
What this kind of behind the scenes maneuvering seems to boil down to is green earmarking. If a member of Congress wishes to show his dedication to the folks back home he or she can do so by securing an earmark for this project or that project, a bridge, a dam, or some other public works initiative that would generate jobs and goodwill for the incumbent member. With the high economic costs of cap and trade standing tall against any future plans by businesses and industries to expand and grow, affected communities and businesses would benefit by exemptions and built in carbon credits that give them a pass from the otherwise broad regulations.
Green earmarking will allow members of Congress to appear to be concerned about the environment and be on the politically correct side of the climate change discussion while at the same time giving them a tool to make sure that nothing they do is going to really harm their districts. If we thought that earmarks were a bad part of the process now, let’s imagine what they will be like when a new program designed to raise hundreds of billions of dollars becomes open to special amendment by individual members of Congress.