GOPers Flip on ‘Cap and Trade’

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Friday, March 06, 2009 at 8:03 am
Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) (WDCpix)

Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) (WDCpix)

President Obama’s plan to reduce carbon emissions has raised hopes for a renewed international push to address global warming. But if the reaction of Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) is any indication, the White House faces big obstacles in its effort to get bipartisan support for revamping the energy economy in a time of recession.

“It’s a stalking horse for raising taxes and spending it on special interests.” Gregg said of the Obama plan in a telephone interview. “It’s a non-starter.”

Illustration by: Matt Mahurin

Illustration by: Matt Mahurin

Last week, the president proposed establishing a so-called cap and trade system that would auction off tradable “permits” allowing utilities and business to emit a certain amount of carbon dioxide. By establishing a market price for carbon emissions, the administration hopes to create incentives for companies to use energy technologies that don’t generate the greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change.

The White House estimates the plan would generate $676 billion in revenue through 2019 (pdf). Acknowledging the new system would raise energy costs for most Americans, the administration proposed returning $550.7 billion, or 82 percent to taxpayers via an income tax credit. The rest of the money, $120 billion, would be allocated to unspecified “clean energy technologies” over eight years.

Gregg’s reaction could signal a broad, if quiet, Republican retreat from the cap and trade concept. Less than a year ago Gregg backed the cap and trade concept behind Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and since-retired John Warner’s (R-Va.) Climate Security Act, which Time magazine described as “the strongest global warming bill ever to make it to the Senate floor. Besides McCain and Gregg, Republicans favoring consideration of the bill included Sens. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), Mel Martinez (R-Fla.), Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Arlen Specter (Penn.). Gregg said his “main reservation was that their bill did not include a provision to return to taxpayers all of the revenues raised by selling emission allowances adding “I look forward to working with my colleagues on ways to fix this concern.” After some Democratic amendments, McCain, Gregg and many other Republicans abandoned the revised bill and it failed.

After Obama offered his proposal in February, the one-time GOP supporters of cap and trade seem distinctly less interested in the concept or in figuring out how to make it work. Corker joined Gregg in criticizing it while Specter issued a statement saying only that the revenue estimates were “entirely speculative.” Spokesmen for McCain, Lugar, Martinez, and Collins did not respond to requests for comment.

In the interview, Gregg objected most strongly to Obama’s proposal to devote 18 percent of cap-and-trade revenues to fund clean energy projects.

“A hundred twenty billion is a lot of money,” said the three-term moderate. “It’s obscene.”

Asked how much of cap-and-trade revenues should be returned to consumers, Gregg said, “It has to be 100 percent if youre going to put that kind of tax” on carbon emissions.

“They shouldn’t using it as stalking horse for his [Obama’s] special interests,” he said. “That’s the Al Gore fund.”

Gregg was more open to Obama’s idea of auctioning off 100 percent of the emission allowances, saying there was room for debate over whether all of the allowances should be auctioned or, some should be given away in return for other carbon emission reductions, as advocated by the U.S. Climate Action Partnership (USCAP), a business-environmental coalition.

“That’s negotiable point,” Gregg said. “There’s some middle ground there.”

“The way forward [for the Obama administration] is to have a little integrity in the process,” Gregg concluded. “If you’re going to hit the American consumer with a sales tax, which is essentially what this is, we shouldn’t be using it to change the size of government.”

Obama’s plan also failed to get any support from Corker of Tennessee, another Republican who previously expressed support for the cap and trade concept.

In January, Corker advocated a cap and trade provision identical to one in Obama’s plan. In a “Dear Colleague” letter to fellow Senators, he criticized past cap and trade bills and the USCAP proposal because, because he said they “would give away for free significant emission allowances that have real monetary value instead of auctioning these allowance and sending the proceeds back to American system who will bear the brunt of any cap-and-trade system.”

Instead, Corker wrote, “we should auction a vast majority—if not all—of the allowances and send 100 percent of the revenues back to consumers.”

Last week, after the release of Obama’s proposal which would auction off all of the allowances, Corker described it as a “climate tax.” The proposal to return 82 percent to taxpayers and dedicate the rest to government-funded energy projects, he said in a statement, was “a major sleight of hand.”

Corker believes that one component of a simple and transparent cap-and-trade proposal would be an auction of all allowances,” a spokesman for his office said Monday afternoon. “He also firmly believes 100 percent of the revenue should be returned to the American people.”

The partisan politics enveloping the issue have already prompted one cap-and trade advocate, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), to contemplate bypassing the Senate legislative process, which would require 60 votes to defeat a Republican filibuster, and putting the legislation in a budget resolution which would only require 51 votes, a move likely to inflame Republicans.

The struggle to revamp the energy system promises to be one of the many big lobbying battles to come in Obama’s first years in office. The number of registered lobbyists working on climate change has grown 300 percent in the last five years, the Center for Responsive Politics reported last week.

Comments

22 Comments

Michael Reed
Comment posted March 6, 2009 @ 7:08 am

I'm by no means an expert, but I've heard that carbon cap-and-trade systems in other countries do not work well. Why does anyone think it would work here? Any thoughts on this?


Ethan
Comment posted March 6, 2009 @ 8:47 am

Gee, I guess the Republicans don't want to be energy independent after all. What a shock. Of course what they don't want you to know is that investment into renewable energy increases the amount of energy on the free market, increases competition, which brings down the cost. The Republicans just don't like this course of action because they are owned and controlled by the worst corporations on the plante: the oil and coal industries.


Jack Abramoff
Comment posted March 6, 2009 @ 8:57 am

If Judd Gregg is a “moderate” as you refer to him, then Barbara Boxer is a conservative. Please change 1 reference or the other. Otherwise your article is absurd.


MDC
Comment posted March 6, 2009 @ 9:36 am

Republicans contradicting their own past records in an effort to smear the Obama administration? I'm shocked, shocked.


Chris
Comment posted March 6, 2009 @ 10:35 am

Clearly, he didn't read the budget. The budget provides that instead of a tax on the middle class, any undue hardship placed by the creation of the cap, of which the electric companies will undoubtedly place on consumers will instead go towards funding the middle class tax cut in the budget. I thought that was extremely clever.


GTFOOH
Comment posted March 6, 2009 @ 12:12 pm

Now he has to show his bona fides by being tougher than any other Pug. What a tool!


alberta treadway
Comment posted March 6, 2009 @ 5:33 pm

Listen, this isn't about cap and trade! The republicans behavior on every issue is driveing our economy in the whole. No one has any faith in the GOP any more to do any thing good or right. Their hate for Obama and this administration makes them buck even what they were in favor of for years! The blinders they put on is tearing our country apart! If Obama and this country fails it will be on their heads! We will remember as a nation How they have even allowed Rush to wish this country to fail, and How he spew his hate and irresponable slander against a good man like Teddy Kennedy! We won't forget, like we never forgot how Rush laughed a joked about the ill Micheal J. Fox! If they continue to turn a blind eye to America, It's on their heads and no one alse's if this country fails! What should be done for this country, will not be if the Republican Pary has their way! They can't stand the Dem's being in power, even when they us Republican idea's it don't quench the fire of hate with in them! God help us all——They will see us destroyed before they allow the Demacrates to help us! It's all insanity of greed an hate now, is all thats left to that grand ole party.


Rick S
Comment posted March 6, 2009 @ 10:52 pm

This is the biggest smelliest load of BS that has ever been foisted upon the American people. If the republicans are stupid enough to buy into this God help us. We do not have a sustainable wind supply. We do not have endless cloudless days for solar power. There is nothing at this point in time other than nuclear that is C02 free and sustainable, if there was the free market would be doing it and no government subsidies would be needed. This has not worked anywhere else in the world, no reason to believe we wouls have any more success. If the U.S shuts everything down China and India would make up for all the C02 we saved in five years.


Kristie
Comment posted March 7, 2009 @ 6:26 am

Nuclear is not CO2-free – if you follow the fuel cycle for uranium – mining, milling, enriching, shipping, storage, reprocessing, all take HUGE amounts of energy, which to date is mostly coal-powered and carbon-emiiting. I'm not sure what world you live in, but in the real world, for decades nuclear has been subsidized – starting from research and development to federalized insurance guarantees. Nuclear takes $6-$10 billion to build one plant – and up to 10 years. Don't be fooled that the French have solved the waste problem either. Recent info suggests that they are heavily polluting ground and ocean water in Europe. Nuclear is not the future.


lester
Comment posted March 20, 2009 @ 6:51 pm

A hundred twenty billion is a lot of money,” said the three-term moderate. “It’s obscene.”…says congressman Gregg

obscene?…OBSCENE???

i'll tell you what it's REALLY obscene…these talking heads are the typical republican lackeys to the oil and energy interests…the investment of $120 billion in independent “clean energy technologies”, would indeed be a major threat to the energy monopoly that current oil companies have been so carefully planning, structuring and hoping to bring about these past 20 years, but for which they only got major financing during the obscene fleecing of america, with the manipulation of oil and gas pricing these past eight years, with the tacit approval and express support of the “cheney gang” (energy task force)…

the oil cos, in attempting to become the main or only purveyors of ENERGY in the near future, in whatever form(s) it's more efficiently profitable AND exclusive, rather than just the purveyors of oil…

so they will move their pawns and their lackeys to try and block ANY attempt to finance a myriad of possible alternatives and potential competitors…

NOW THAT IS WHAT IS REALLY OBSCENE…


lester
Comment posted March 21, 2009 @ 1:51 am

A hundred twenty billion is a lot of money,” said the three-term moderate. “It’s obscene.”…says congressman Gregg

obscene?…OBSCENE???

i'll tell you what it's REALLY obscene…these talking heads are the typical republican lackeys to the oil and energy interests…the investment of $120 billion in independent “clean energy technologies”, would indeed be a major threat to the energy monopoly that current oil companies have been so carefully planning, structuring and hoping to bring about these past 20 years, but for which they only got major financing during the obscene fleecing of america, with the manipulation of oil and gas pricing these past eight years, with the tacit approval and express support of the “cheney gang” (energy task force)…

the oil cos, in attempting to become the main or only purveyors of ENERGY in the near future, in whatever form(s) it's more efficiently profitable AND exclusive, rather than just the purveyors of oil…

so they will move their pawns and their lackeys to try and block ANY attempt to finance a myriad of possible alternatives and potential competitors…

NOW THAT IS WHAT IS REALLY OBSCENE…


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Pingback posted July 11, 2009 @ 11:48 pm

[...] reason, Gregg has shifted significantly in the other direction since then, and if you look at his rhetoric here, and a criticism of him here, I consider Gregg hopeless. Another piece of explaining is Bob [...]


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Pingback posted July 11, 2009 @ 11:52 pm

[...] reason, Gregg has shifted significantly in the other direction since then, and if you look at his rhetoric here, and a criticism of him here, I consider Gregg hopeless. Another piece of explaining is Bob [...]


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[...] reason, Gregg has shifted significantly in the other direction since then, and if you look at his rhetoric here, and a criticism of him here, I consider Gregg hopeless. Another piece of explaining is Bob [...]


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[...] Corker — who has questioned the existence of man-made global warming — has flipped and flopped in recent years on whether mandatory limits on carbon pollution are needed. Similarly, Alexander [...]


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Pingback posted September 7, 2010 @ 4:49 pm

[...] About that Cap and Trade Idea: How soon the Republican Party tends to forget its earlier positions, alarming considering the ‘elephant’ is supposed to have a prodigious memory. In 2007 it was the Republican Party touting the idea of Cap and Trade emission control legislation. Others appear to remember: ” Less than a year ago Gregg backed the cap and trade concept behind Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and since-retired John Warner’s (R-Va.) Climate Security Act, which Time magazine described as “the strongest global warming ever to make it to the Senate floor. Besides McCain and Gregg, Republicans favoring consideration of the bill included Sens. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), Mel Martinez (R-Fla.), Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Arlen Specter (Penn.). Gregg said his “main reservation” was that their bill did not include a provision to return to taxpayers all of the revenues raised by selling emission allowances adding “I look forward to working with my colleagues on ways to fix this concern.” After some Democratic amendments, McCain, Gregg and many other Republicans abandoned the revised bill and it failed.” [WashInd] [...]


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[...] March 2009, Gregg slammed Obama’s proposed climate action outline, calling it a “non-starter.” A month later, Gregg voted repeatedly to preserve the filibuster for green economy legislation, [...]


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[...] March 2009, Gregg slammed Obama’s proposed climate action outline, calling it a “non-starter.” A month later, Gregg voted repeatedly to preserve the filibuster for green economy [...]


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