By Texas Railroad Commissioner Elizabeth Ames Jones
Well, now we know. To no surprise, the biggest government boondoggle in modern times was narrowly passed in the U.S. House of Representatives, thanks to some good old-fashioned horse trading.
By seven votes, the Waxman-Markey climate change legislation squeaked out, and no doubt Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., is breathing a sigh of relief.
Turns out that one hold-out, Rep. Marcy Kaptur, D-Ohio, drives a hard bargain. Thanks to her middle of the night deal making - and that of a host of others - HR2454 is on its way to the Senate. If it comes out intact, along with paying the de facto taxes imposed by the "cap and trade" scheme, taxpayers also get the privilege of funding, to the tune of $3.5 billion, Kaptur's new federal authority to make taxpayer-financed loans for economic development and renewable energy projects in Ohio.
Let's hope her new "power authority" at least requires a down payment on the money that it loans, a standard of practice that other quasi-government financial agencies like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac overlooked. I wonder what the taxpayers' rate of return on our $3.5 billion investment will be?
In the wee hours of the night, when Americans were tossing and turning, thanks to worries about how they are going to pay their bills at the end of the month, common sense was horse-traded away. A 310-page amendment, no doubt to entice hold-outs to vote "aye," was attached to the bill that is supposedly going to ensure that, for the first time in 4 billion years, the Earth's climate will not change.
In Texas everybody knows that if you don't like the weather just wait a day, because it will be totally different tomorrow. I hope before any climate change bill is signed into law we can get Texas' weather just the way we want it, for good.
The honest truth is that this federal legislation should be called the Overseas Secure Employment Act. Why? Because President Obama feels obligated to exempt overseas companies from the complicated and expensive costs that our home grown domestic industries - and consumers - will incur under this new "cap and trade" tax scheme. In fact, the president has spoken out against any provision that would impose trade penalties on countries that did not impose limits on pollution.
According to a recent article in the New York Times, Obama said, "At a time when the economy worldwide is still deep in recession, and we've seen a significant drop in global trade, I think we have to be very careful about sending any protectionist signals out there."
Protectionist policies that inhibit global trade should be off the table, but why would our president promote a policy that puts businesses that are unable to pick up and move overseas with their American jobs, at a competitive disadvantage to achieve an illusive goal?
The truth of the matter is that by the time big government takes up a cause and attempts to impose a top-down solution, the winning horse is usually already out the gate, around the track, and almost to the finish line.
In the case of energy, thanks to the ingenuity of the American people, we are already seeing great strides being made. From state to state, institutes of higher learning and private laboratories are places where good ideas are incubating. Alternatives like wind, solar, fuel cells, advanced battery technology, and geothermal are either being used or developed.
It is private sector engineers and entrepreneurs who are finding better ways to increase our future energy supply from a myriad of sources. Sure, federal and state grants for research and development have played a role, but so have private energy companies, who have plowed back profits into their own R&D.
One energy success story is clean-burning natural gas. Technology developed by visionaries, not inside-the-beltway, so-called experts, has paved the way for responsible production of this clean burning fuel.
Drilling for natural gas found in places once deemed unreachable is now common place across the country. In fact, America is so rich in natural gas that with the sound management of the fields that is occurring today, our country could produce almost as much clean energy as we consume ... if we wanted to. That is the definition of energy independence to me.
But Waxman-Markey is yet another scheme coming out of Washington that will add to the cost of drilling for natural gas, most of which is done by independent companies, leaving geologists, engineers, drilling companies and entrepreneurs to look for greener pastures ... foreign countries that welcome our know-how and want to produce their own natural gas using technology developed in America.
Because our economy (arguably aggravated by the same Washington experts who bring you HR 2454) has depressed consumption and left a glut of natural gas in storage or in the ground, thousands of jobs have already been lost in the energy sector, and the latest legislation could seal the coffin for years to come.
It is a shame to have to import natural gas - or anything - because our own government has stacked the deck against American businesses that are already hurting.
Waxman-Markey is so overloaded with government hand-outs and pseudo-solutions that were it a racehorse it would take a heavy handed whip to get the poor beast across the finish line, if he could make it at all.
That's why I would rather keep my bet on the ingenuity of the American people. Ingenuity has won the day before and can do it again if given half a chance.
Mrs. Jones is a member of the Railroad Commission of Texas.