Shame on McCain

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Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.) aspires to be the Energy Rationing President, and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) apparently wants to help him attain that dubious distinction. McCain, who chairs the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, held a hearing this week on legislation he and Lieberman are co-sponsoring to force major energy, manufacturing, and transportation companies to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide to year 2000 levels by 2010 and 1990 levels by 2016. Although the McCain-Lieberman CO2 reduction targets are not as draconian as those stipulated in the Kyoto Protocol (7 percent below 1990 levels during the five-year averaging period, 2008-2012), it’s close enough for government work. Moreover, once federal agencies get a green light to regulate CO2, we can be sure climate alarmists like Kyoto Joe Lieberman will return to the charge, demanding ever more stringent controls. Why is this a prescription for energy rationing? CO2 is the inescapable byproduct of the hydrocarbon fuels that supply 70 percent of U.S. electricity and 84 percent of all U.S. energy. There is no device that can be bolted onto a car engine, a steel mill, or a power plant that can scrub CO2 out of the exhaust stream. Thus, the only way to meet a mandatory CO2 reduction target or “cap” is to use less of the affordable, plentiful, increasingly safe and clean hydrocarbons. CO2 controls are just another name for energy rationing -? the regulatory equivalent of an energy tax. It’s not hard to understand why Lieberman is keen to have Chairman McCain shepherd energy rationing legislation through his committee. The chances of such legislation becoming law in the 108th Congress are nil. But that?s exactly the point. When the Republican-led Congress fails to pass the bill, Lieberman, who is running for president in 2004, will be able to blame the GOP and, especially, its leader, Mr. anti-Kyoto, George W. Bush. Sen. McCain is setting the stage for Sen. Lieberman’s presidential campaign ?- a campaign in which Lieberman will bash Bush and the GOP for “inaction” on global warming. Why is McCain advancing Kyoto Joe’s climate agenda and political career? It’s baffling, given McCain’s previous positions on energy issues. In 1993, McCain voted against the Clinton-Gore tax on fossil energy production. Yet as a June 2001 Congressional Budget Office study of CO2 cap-and-trade programs notes, “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.” Now McCain is pushing the regulatory equivalent of an energy tax. McCain also voted for the July 1997 Byrd-Hagel resolution, where the U.S. Senate opposed the Kyoto Protocol by 95-0, partly because it would exempt three-quarters of the world from the kind of binding CO2 controls it would impose on the United States. The McCain-Lieberman emissions cap-and-trade legislation would impose a Kyoto-style energy-rationing scheme on the United States alone. During the 107th Congress, McCain co-authored with Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) a fierce critique of the Senate energy bill. Published in the East Valley Tribune and titled “Energy Plan Lacks Juice,” the McCain-Kyl op-ed blasts the Senate bill for including tax credits for “alternative fuel” vehicles, a mandate on refiners to manufacture gasoline from ethanol, and a requirement on power companies to generate 10 percent of their electricity from non-hydroelectric “renewable” energy sources. The irony here is over the top. Every measure Sen. McCain rightly excoriates in his op-ed as a special-interest boondoggle is a staple of Kyoto-inspired agitation. Sen. McCain has a whole lot of explaining to do. If he opposes energy taxes, why is he advocating its regulatory equivalent? If he supports the Byrd-Hagel resolution, why is he now acting to overturn it? If he opposes the anti-consumer, anti-energy provisions of the misnamed Senate “energy” bill, why is he teeing up a more lethal assault on American prosperity? ”Marlo Lewis, Jr. is senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute and can be reached via email at:” ”See CEI’s Web site at:”