Congressman John Shimkus (R-IL) is a member of the House Energy & Commerce Committee. He took time this week to answer questions from U.S. Fulbright Fellow Patrick Bell.
1. Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), the new Chair of the Energy & Commerce Committee, has said he would like to have global warming legislation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions passed out of committee by Memorial Day. What might be some of the sticking points to following that timeline?
This is a huge undertaking. A bill that would monetize carbon has far reaching consequences. This isn’t something to be taken lightly and trying to push something through by holding to an arbitrary date to produce the bill is not responsible. The Energy and Commerce Committee is very diverse in representation. I would hope, and will try my best to encourage, fossil fuel Democrats to protect their own constituents.
2. At the first hearing of the Energy & Commerce Committee during the new Congress, you called cap-and-trade proposals a “shell game.” Please expand on what you meant by that.
Cap and Trade is a shell game because it hides what is happening. When you monetize carbon, someone is going to pay for it. Saying it is cap and trade makes people (consumers) believe that big business is paying for it; however, we all know that these businesses will increase utility rates or manufactured goods’ prices to pay for this increase in costs. If we want to be intellectually honest, it should be a carbon tax. While I do not support a carbon tax either, it is the only way to be upfront with consumers.
3. What effects do you believe cap-and-trade legislation would have on coal abundant states? Would there be particular negative impacts to your district, or other parts of the Midwest?
It is hard to say what the impact would be. Take the 1990 Clean Air Act. Because of that, Kincaid Mine 10 – in my district now – was closed and all those miners’ jobs were lost. What will the impact be of this legislation? I will not be a member who votes for a bill that is going to kill the coal sector of this country; put thousands of people out of work in the middle of a recession; and cause prices on everything sold in this country to go up.
4. With the recent gas crisis in Europe, some countries here are considering reviving their nuclear energy programs. What proposals are there in Congress, if any, to jumpstart America’s energy independence using nuclear energy?
I think there will be an increase in the nuclear sector, and I support this. I’m for all sources of energy and look forward to supporting an increase in nuclear. As far as specific proposals, it is a bit early to tell, but there will be some. Nuclear will have to be looked at if a cap and trade policy is implemented.
5. Both California and New Jersey managed to enact strict new carbon capping plans without having the specifics debated by the legislature at all. In both cases, the states passed very vague goals and then left the details to democratically unaccountable bureaucrats. Considering that President Obama has nominated the architect of the New Jersey plan, Lisa Jackson to the EPA, and considering that Obama appointed the author of the key briefs for Mass v. EPA, what are you doing to make sure Obama does not implement cap-and-trade through the regulatory process?
That is a worry to many of us. Should unaccountable bureaucrats be allowed to make these policies? The Energy and Commerce Committee should be involved, and I would imagine the new chairman wants to be, which is why he has set out this deadline. This is a tough balance, between not doing anything or letting the EPA act. It will be my job to protect my constituents.
6. During the record high gas prices of last year, some in Congress blamed the markets and oil companies for the pain at the pump. Are you at all skeptical why some of these same voices are now fully embracing a “market-based mechanism” as the solution for global warming?
I do find it interesting, at the least. If you believe oil can be manipulated as a commodity, certainly carbon could also be manipulated as a commodity. But that doesn’t seem to even be a concern now.