On Monday Once Sen. Lindsay Graham's concerns about the priority of energy legislation can be assuaged, he, Kerry, and Lieberman will unveil their long-awaited bill to put a cap on carbon pollution and stimulate across-the-board energy production. The tripartisan trio, at the very least, deserves a standing O for their hard work and willingness to engage in good-faith give-and-take.
Once the bill hits the street, the demagoguery will begin in earnest. In fact, it has already begun. A gaggle of 31 House Republicans is kicking off an online and media offensive designed to thwart the bill and stand up the tired corpus of their same-old, same-old arguments that a climate and energy bill will cause economic calamity.
We're sure to hear that a cap on carbon pollution is a tax. By that logic, any limit on pollution is a tax. Emissions controls on cars, power plants, and factories that reduce smog are a tax. Treatment systems that keep raw sewage and industrial gunk out of our rivers and lakes are a tax. The bill that you pay to have your garbage hauled away is a tax.
Keeping the air clean, our waters pure, and our communities livable is not free. The alternative to spending the money is dirty air, poisoned water, filthy streets, and sick people. Those consequences cost money too, but they cost much more in addition.
We will also hear that limits on carbon pollution will cost jobs. Only in the vivid imaginations of the talk radio pseudo-intelligentsia would the CEOs of General Electric, Duke Energy, DuPont, and other businesses that actively support a carbon cap plot to destroy jobs.
What you won't hear from the demagogues is that doing nothing to limit carbon pollution will cost jobs. In 2006, China had 3 percent of the solar panel market. Today, China's share is 45 percent. A recent Pew Center study found that China invested nearly twice as much as the U.S. in renewable energy and biofuels last year. The European Union invested more than twice as much.
As a percentage of gross domestic product, Pew found that U.S. investments in clean energy don't even crack the top 10. We're No. 11, behind Mexico. Yes, Mexico.
Low-carbon energy sources are at an unfair disadvantage in the energy market because fossil fuels get to use the atmosphere as a free garbage can for their carbon pollution. Put a price on carbon and the low-carbon technologies will have a fighting chance to compete in the U.S. Do nothing about carbon pollution, as the House 31 seem to prefer, and the low-carbon technologies will keep many, many Chinese gainfully employed.
As Senator Graham told Politico the other day: "If we don't watch it, if our country doesn't get an energy vision and start incentivizing alternative sources of energy, this whole international movement to clean up the planet is going to pass us by, and we're going to be following China instead of leading China."
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