On October 30, by a vote of 43 to 55, the Senate rejected an amendment by Senators John McCain (R.-Ariz.) and Joe Lieberman (D.-Conn.) that would have regulated carbon dioxide emissions for the first time.
The so-called “McLieberman” amendment was really a bill (S. 139) that the pair of senators brought to the floor. The vote on an amendment to that bill was part of their parliamentary strategy to get a vote on the floor, but its defeat essentially meant the bill’s defeat as well.
The bill, according to its official description, would “accelerate the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States by establishing a market-driven system of greenhouse gas trade-able allowances.” .
The bill was a backdoor attempt to implement the Kyoto treaty in the United States-which has not ratified that treaty. Under the McCain-Lieberman plan, “emissions credits” would be given to polluters, which they could buy and sell from each other and spend by emitting carbon dioxide. In this way, only a limited amount of carbon dioxide would be emitted into the atmosphere. This is known as a so-called “cap-and-trade” system.
Although this system vaguely resembles some kind of free market activity, that appearance is totally bogus. The cap-and-trade system’s enormous costs would be borne entirely by the consumer in several ways. For example, when energy prices skyrocket in order to limit the amount of pollution produced by power plants, consumers would pay. They would also pay dearly when caps are reached and further production of various goods and services-including electricity-are halted or slowed by carbon dioxide regulations. Even food-rationing would not be outside the realm of possibility once major shippers, manufacturers and growers reach CO2 caps.
For these and other reasons, the economic results of the McCain-Lieberman legislation would have been devastating for the United States for years to come. In the long run, it also would have probably increased pollution, since an expanding economy is far more likely to produce new, cleaner methods of energy production than is a stultified economy burdened by environmental regulations.
Moreover, under a cap-and-trade regime some decision would have to be made about how much each human being is entitled to pollute when the government issues the pollution credits at the beginning. If the credits are given proportionately to the largest polluters-which in a way would make sense-that gives all polluters an incentive to ramp up the amount of pollution they create, so as to take advantage when the cap-and-trade system is finally implemented. If the credits are distributed in some other way-say, one to each person in the United States-then a significant amount of time and energy will go into finding and buying credits, that should instead be dedicated to economic expansion.
Either way, the government credit system would be an ugly attempt to justify government interference in minute activities of everyday life, plus it would destroy the U.S. economy Sen. Kit Bond (R.-Mo.) pointed out the failures of other countries to live up to their goals in carbon dioxide reductions.
“Russia is now finding that they cannot live up to the commitments that were made in Kyoto,” said Bond. “I just read another article that the European Union finds they really can’t come up with all of these carbon dioxide reductions that they had promised. Why? Even in a Communist country they begin to realize that government actions have consequences. . .[T]his bill will cripple our economy, cripple our communities, and financially cripple many of our struggling families.”
Sen. Lamar Alexander’s (R.-Tenn.) “no” vote was a pleasant surprise for conservatives, since the freshman senator had voted in favor of carbon dioxide caps in committee earlier this year (see “Lamar Alexander Backs Kyoto-Style Carbon Caps”).
A “yes” vote was a vote for the McCain-Lieberman amendment, to impose caps on carbon dioxide emissions in the United States. A “no” vote was a vote against the amendment and the underlying bill.
|FOR THE AMENDMENT: 43||AGAINST THE AMENDMENT: 55|
|REPUBLICANS FOR (6):
DEMOCRATS FOR (37):
INDEPENDENT FOR (1):
|REPUBLICANS AGAINST (45):
DEMOCRATS AGAINST (10):
NOT VOTING: 2
|REPUBLICANS (0):||DEMOCRATS (2):|