Senators Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and John Kerry (D-Mass.) introduced the Senate companion to the Waxman-Markey climate change legislation today and while many pieces are missing, the framework in place spells bad news for every American energy consumer, especially low income ones.
Like Waxman-Markey, the focus is a cap and trade system, but takes the House bill’s 17 percent reduction of 2005 emissions by 2020 to a more stringent 20 percent cut. Unlike the House version, which gives away emission allowances to special interests groups that lobbied hard to protect their bottom line, the Senate draft does not include how the emission allowances – hundreds of billions of dollars – will be given away.
Co-sponsor Senator Kerry tells us, “This is not a cap-and-trade bill, it’s a pollution reduction bill.” But the simple reality is it’s an energy tax bill. As OMB director Peter Orszag says, “Under a cap-and-trade program, firms would not ultimately bear most of the costs of the allowances but instead would pass them along to their customers in the form of higher prices.” And the bill’s incompleteness goes to show how impatiently Kerry and Boxer are trying to move a historic energy tax into law.
Since the Senate bill is structured similar to the Waxman-Markey cap and trade bill, our economic analysis of the first two decades (2012-2035) provides an alarming forecast. Our cost estimates of Waxman-Markey project higher energy and other costs for a household of four are nearly $3,000 per year between 2012 and 2035. Gasoline prices will rise by 58 percent ($1.38 more per gallon) and average household electric rates will increase by 90 percent.
And because the low-income families spend a larger portion of their income on energy, cap and tax is extremely regressive. According to a new study commissioned by the Institute for Energy Research (IER), “Households in the lowest-earning quintile—those earning less than $18,370 per year—would pay $451 per year or a substantial 4.5 percent of their income. This additional tax upon these households would be larger than every other tax they currently pay, except the federal payroll tax, which costs an average of $656 per year, and would be roughly equivalent to a 69 percent increase in the federal payroll tax on these households”
IER’s full study is available here.
The mind-blowing estimated costs do not even tell the whole story as both bills include new, costly energy efficiency standards, renewable energy mandates, as well as taxpayer-funded subsidies for clean energy development. And since the bill is far from completion, more costly provisions are sure to come.
Similar to its House counterpart, the Boxer-Kerry draft provides funding for green energy worker training plans and for those who lose their jobs, a “Climate Change Worker Adjustment Assistance” program to protect employees who “have become totally or partially separated, or are threatened to become totally or partially separated from employment.” So we now have confirmation from both the House and the Senate that cap and trade is a jobs destroyer. Our analysis of Waxman-Markey predicts net job losses (after accounting for green job creation) approach 1.9 million in 2012 and could approach 2.5 million by 2035. Manufacturing loses 1.4 million jobs in 2035.
One addition worth mentioning in the Senate version that isn’t included in the House bill is its inclusion of nuclear. It attempts to fix something that doesn’t need fixing. Instead of addressing problems such as the onerous regulatory environment or putting forth a plan to dispose of nuclear waste, the bill proposes subsidies to grow the nuclear industrial base and work force.
Adequate infrastructure is certainly a prerequisite to any substantial expansion of nuclear energy and that is why the private sector is making those investment right now, absent any federal handouts. It is something the nuclear industry, not the American taxpayer, can take care of, and the industry is. According to the Nuclear Energy Institute, “private investment in new nuclear power plants has created an estimated 14,000-15,000 jobs.”
Large universities and local community colleges are expanding to meet industry’s demands for more engineers and skilled laborers. Texas A&M has one of the fastest-growing nuclear engineering departments in the country, the University of Florida has continued increased enrollment as well as an increase in its research grant awards, and a total of 31 schools continue to offer a degree in nuclear engineering.
And the New Jersey-based Public Service Enterprise Group (PSEG) piloted an entry-level technical-trade program at Mercer County Community College that provides training and education for specific nuclear jobs. Given all of this activity, it’s odd Boxer and Kerry focus specifically on handouts to bolster the nuclear workforce.
Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), says the Boxer-Kerry bill is “going to need a lot of work.” But the shell is there. Move over, health care, it’s time to share some of the spotlight.