Killing Energy: Beware the ‘Soft Kyoto’ Strategy

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Determined to pass energy legislation before Congress adjourned for its August recess, Senate leaders brokered a deal replacing this year’s Republican-drafted bill (S. 14) with last year’s Democrat-drafted bill (S. 517). Both bills are laden with pork, but S. 517 actually qualifies as an anti-energy bill.

To begin with, S. 517 affirms the Kyoto Protocol’s pseudo-scientific vision of an impending climate catastrophe caused by man-made emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), the inescapable byproduct of fossil fuel energy generation. If Congress puts its seal of approval on this kind of alarmism, it would mobilize pro-Kyoto lobbying both inside and outside the U.S. government. Not coincidentally, S. 517 would create a White House climate czar charged with the tasks of developing and presenting to Congress a national carbon reduction strategy. In other words, the bill would establish a permanent institutional base within the Executive Branch for anti-energy advocacy.


In addition, S. 517 would set up a national registry to track companies’ carbon emissions. If after five years companies producing at least 60 percent of estimated U.S. emissions decline to “volunteer” for the program, participation becomes mandatory, enforceable by fines of up to $25,000 per day. In other words, the bill would build the monitoring and enforcement framework for a future Kyoto-style emissions cap-and-trade program.

Finally, S. 517 would institute the first nationwide “renewable portfolio standard” (RPS) for the electric power sector. An RPS is a regulatory scheme requiring a specified percentage of electricity to come from solar, wind, and other politically correct technologies. Under S. 517, 10 percent of the nation’s electricity would have to come from renewable sources by 2020.

The Republicans who will control the House-Senate conference committee on energy legislation in September are no fans of S. 517. Senator Pete Domenici (R-N.M.) has even suggested that S. 517 is irrelevant, stating: “We’re the majority. We write the bill in conference.” However, the outcome is far from certain.

As part of the deal, Senate leaders agreed to schedule debate on the “Climate Stewardship Act” (S. 139), sponsored by presidential wannabes Senators John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.). Like the Kyoto Protocol, S. 139 would impose caps on carbon dioxide emissions from the U.S. power, manufacturing, and transportation sectors.

McCain says he does not expect Congress to enact his bill. However, opponents may feel they have to accept an RPS