Energy & Environment

McCain’s Gas Tax Holiday Stunt

Newly-elected London Mayor Boris Johnson once famously promised that a vote for his team meant “your wife will get bigger breasts and your chances of driving a BMW M3 will increase”.

Seeking to make the notoriously outrageous Johnson appear measured, Sen. John McCain assures us that he would suspend the federal gasoline tax to provide you some relief from the pernicious evil of high energy costs. For three months. While he works on imposing his rationing scheme that inherently requires pricing energy out of your reach.

With neither of these chaps having been born in this country, comparisons like this might leave some Republicans inquiring into Johnson’s availability for a trip to Minneapolis this August.

McCain’s gas tax holiday is of course a stunt. Kind of like those “global warming” proposals about which, unfortunately, there is no disagreement among all three candidates for president.

What makes this even more interesting, for those who feared that this presidential campaign would be free of debate, is that this pits Sen. McCain against himself.

You see, earlier in the year, on Fox News Sunday McCain promised “a clear difference [with the Democrat nominee] on whether we’re going to increase taxes or decrease taxes”. His reasoning was that “the worst thing we can do right now is — we’ve got some shaky economic times — is to increase peoples’ taxes.”

Freeze the debate right there and one might disregard McCain’s admission that “The issue of economics is not something I have understood as well as I should”. Unfortunately, one only earns “maverick” status with quests to, for example, significantly increase Americans’ energy costs. This has been a McCain signature issue since encountering a kid in a penguin suit heckling him over global warming during the 2000 primary campaign. He and the bird, er, kid, had a sit down, and the senator walked away convinced. Seriously.

For years afterward McCain attached his name to legislation rationing energy use emissions — which, for the foreseeable future means rationing energy use (see Hoffert et al, Science Magazine, 2001). Upon renewing his quest for the White House, however, the failed “McCain-Lieberman” bill became “Lieberman-(John) Warner”. Liberman-Warner comes to the Senate floor June 2. The retiring Virginia Republican said that he was thinking about his legacy in signing on. Great.

More troubling than that or even the penguin’s influence is that the Congressional Budget Office calls the scheme an energy tax. With apologies to Richard Darman (who invented the “duck test” to determine what was a tax) the penguin-induced energy measure sure quacks, swims and flys like a duck. An economy-killing expensive one, at that.

You see, due to the efforts required to hide the tax in the form of a government administered rationing scheme, economists say it becomes four to five times as expensive as simply taxing the dreaded carbon dioxide emissions (what you’re exhaling now — your breath, only to be rakishly absorbed by flora which then subject us to the horrors of photosynthesis. Oh, when will the madness cease?).

Sayeth CBO, “the economic impacts of cap-and-trade programs would be similar to those of a carbon tax: both would raise the cost of using carbon-based fossil fuels, lead to higher energy prices and impose costs on users and some suppliers of energy” (US Congressional Budget Office, “An Evaluation of Cap and Trade Programs for Reducing US GHG Emissions”).

So, how does John McCain really feel about high energy costs? Even now — with gasoline over $4 per gallon almost everywhere — McCain still thinks we should leave our own oil and gas in the ground.

Consider two other factors. McCain’s legislation, er, “Lieberman-Warner”, would be the biggest pork barrel program in history (explaining all of those “responsible” windmill, etc., companies like GE drooling over it). It also would quite clearly be the China/India Stimulus Act.

In recent years the U.S. has busily added thousands of steel jobs imported from Europe, whose own adoption of the McCain scheme has chased energy intensive investment offshore (the flora will be pleased to learn that Europe’s COs emissions have not declined, but actually increased, and far faster than ours).

Those jobs are coming here. For now. Should we leap on Europe’s sinking policy ship we will eschew their newest export, passing the jobs off to countries smart enough to openly swear off the addictive stuff of expensive but futile green gestures. These include Mexico, China, India, Brazil, South Korea, Indonesia and other bit players on the world economic stage.

Now, Alan Greenspan knows the economy. In his book, in speeches and whenever asked he warns against a cap-and-trade scheme because its success “can only occur with much lower levels of economic activity”.

Bill Clinton understands the economy, too, as well as McCain-Lieberman-Warner. He says “We just have to slow down our economy and cut back our greenhouse gas emissions ‘cause we have to save the planet for our grandchildren.” That is, so long as they aren’t grandchildren of anyone working in the steel, utility, paper or chemical industries, just to name some of those screaming bloody murder about the hemorrhaging McCain-Lieberman-Warner has done over there.

Question: is it really likely that Europe threatens a trade war against us unless we do this to ourselves, too, a sign that the Loch Ness Monster of “green jobs” has been found? No.

Sadly, Sen. Obama is the only candidate to resist this particular pander of the gas tax holiday. In reality, even a permanent one would yield little extra cash in your pocket because, in short, markets figure out where to allocate existing resources at what cost.

You’re paying what you’ll pay. Which is a whole lot less than you’d pay under the “global warming” rationing scheme that all three candidates support, the entire point of which is to tax energy so drastically that you use drastically less.

That’s Sen. McCain’s stance on high energy costs.

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