A Climate Tale of Two Senators

South Carolina’s two U.S. Senators couldn’t be further apart in their positions on climate change legislation.  While both are Republicans, Sen. Lindsey Graham has apparently decided it is better to cast his lot with the Obama Administration and the Washington Democrats and support their job-killing cap-and-trade energy tax.  Sen. Jim DeMint, on the other hand, has drawn a line in the sand and stood by his convictions, no matter which way the political winds are blowing.

On one side of the climate debate is Sen. Graham, who recently penned a New York Times op-ed with Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry (D) laying out a framework to pass cap-and-trade legislation that will kill jobs and increase taxes on energy.  Central planners like Kerry are anxious to find any Republican who will give them cover to pass their power grab.  Graham appears poised to give them that cover.  

The Graham-Kerry plan purports to “revitalize our economy, protect current jobs and create new ones,” but the plan will do nothing of the sort.  A cap-and-trade program, and the costly new carbon dioxide emission mandates it includes, will sap money from South Carolina businesses — money they could use to invest in America’s economic recovery and hire more workers.  A study released by the National Black Chamber of Commerce found that southeastern states like South Carolina stand to lose 550,000 jobs by 2030, the hardest-hit region in the country if cap-and-trade becomes law.

A cap-and-trade scheme will not only cost South Carolina jobs, but it will cripple America’s international competitiveness. Our rising competitors, India and China, have both said they will not hamstring their industries with carbon regulations.  Graham suggests that we can mitigate this problem by enacting “a border tax on items produced in countries that avoid these standards.”  He acts as though America is the only country where India and China can sell their goods.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  If we erect trade barriers, all we will do is hurt our own companies and consumers, as China and India sell their goods at a lower price elsewhere and Americans pay higher prices for goods.

Graham also — rightly — contends that we must expand our nuclear energy capacity if we are serious about lowering our carbon emissions and lessening our dependence on foreign oil.  However, he must know that radical environmentalists will never allow new nuclear plants to be built.  There is no reason to suggest that Democrats will include a meaningful nuclear component in the final bill, and Sen. Graham should know better than to be duped so easily.  

But South Carolinians should be heartened.  They have one of this nation’s true champions in the U.S. Senate fighting for their jobs and their family budgets.  DeMint has been a tireless free market advocate, and at Americans for Prosperity (AFP), we were proud to present him with our third annual Washington Award, given to an individual “who has contributed in a powerful and unique way to defending our economic freedoms.”  

DeMint has been a sometimes lonely voice opposing a chorus of chants for big government to take over our energy sector.  Like AFP, DeMint is concerned about the unending growth of government and the hijacking of environmental rhetoric to extract even more hard-earned tax dollars from his constituents.

As the debate over climate change legislation continues in the Senate, South Carolinians must make sure that Graham knows he should take a lesson from DeMint and stand with the people of his state, not big-government liberals like Kerry.