Monday, June 29, 2009

The Worst Bill Ever

They say that, in Wisconsin, if you don't like the weather, wait a few hours. In Washington, if you don't like the weather, pass a bill. As Jim Lindgren points out, the House of Representatives has voted to change the weather.

It's hard to know where to start with the cap and trade bill.

It comes at a time when the scientific "consensus" on climate change seems to be unraveling. That always seemed likely. While we certainly experienced (but are not now experiencing) global temperature increases and it is certainly possible for carbon emissions to have an impact on climate, every time I waded in to some of the literature, I was struck by how uncertain the entire project is and how unlikely catastrophic climate change really is. Al Gore's horror shows never represented the scientific consensus and the science seems to be moving further away from his alarmist vision.

It comes at a time when we have heard, for eight years, that science has been politicized. While much of that criticism was overblown, science does get politicized and the change in administrations hasn't changed that sad fact.

It comes at a time when the economic analysis seems to suggest that that adjustment is a better avoidance, yet it sets wildly aggressive emission reduction goals. Maybe they can be met, but not because Congress voted for them. What passed on Friday is a leap of faith.

It comes at a time when the earmark scandal should have taught us something about the games Congress plays. Allocating emission licenses is a an invitation to rent seeking. Allowing Congress to say who can use energy will enervate the economy but it will enrich K Street.

It comes at a time when we ought to be reluctant to further weaken the economy. The dream of "green jobs" is just that. A dream that cannot be realized from the top down. History tells us that the richer a society becomes, the cleaner it can afford to be. We are much more energy efficient and environmentally friendly than we used to be. But that is a function of wealth and market response. Limiting growth is likely to limit our ability to develop greener technologies and this bill threatens to destroy growth. Having green technologies selected by the political process brings us ethanol,

It comes at a time when the rushed passage of the pork laden and ineffective stimulus bill should have taught us something about Congress passing major legislation without due deliberation. The public has no idea what is in this bill. Neither do the people who voted for it. Ask Gwen Moore and Steve Kagen to explain - specifically and at length - what they voted for. They could not have because there wasn't even a copy to read. That a bill with profound implications for our economy should be passed in this way is disgraceful.

It comes at a time when we ought to understand the global nature of both the economy and the environment. Carbon emissions are without borders. Emission reductions in the US are likely to be nullified by huge developing economies in India and China who are unpersuaded that remaining in poverty is a proper response to Al Gore's Power Point. The bill seeks to counter that possibility with protectionism. Which has always worked.

It comes at a time when we should know better.

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