Michigan Congressman John Dingell, a Democrat who chairs the House Energy and Commerce Committee, through which any major climate change measures must pass, is calling the bluff of colleagues who demand that something, anything, everything be done to address global warming.
And while Dingell’s gambit might backfire, given the atmosphere of alarmism that prevails in certain quarters, he’s making an important point — that drastically reducing so-called greenhouse gases potentially carries huge costs for the economy and for consumers.
Until we start talking about costs, as much as we do about alleged benefits, the debate is taking place in a vacuum.
“I will be introducing in the next little bit a carbon tax bill, just to sort of see how people think about this,” Dingell said in a C-SPAN interview broadcast Sunday. “When you see the criticism I get, I think you’ll see the answer to your question.”
Dingell hopes the proposal will show colleagues “that Americans are not willing to face the real cost of reducing carbon dioxide emissions,” according to one news story. “His message appeared to be that Democratic leaders were setting unrealistic legislative goals.”
Of course, it’s possible that his colleagues won’t be deterred by the price tag, and that the expected backlash wouldn’t materialize. Or, as frequently happens, Congress may find a clever way to mandate emissions reductions while disguising their true impacts on the economy and consumers.
Democrats say they want to do something about climate change, yet many adamantly oppose a carbon tax, recognizing that the higher transportation costs, utility bills and consumer prices that result will hurt them politically.
Many Democrats believe that former President Bill Clinton’s support for an energy tax in 1993 (called the “Btu tax”) helped cost Democrats their congressional majority in the 1994 elections.
We’re wary of almost anything Congress does, since a regulatory overreaction could do irreparable harm to the U.S. economy while having a negligible impact on climate change. But we agree with Dingell that the true costs of congressional action must be made explicit up front. A carbon tax may be the best way to do this. It at last has the virtue of being honest about the fact that the earth can’t be “saved” on the cheap.
The Clovis News Journal supporting a tax increase? Perhaps. In this case, it might be the lesser of evils.