Before the House dismissed for August recess, it sent two important messages related to regulating (or not) carbon dioxide.
The House decisively passed an amendment to the Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act raised by Representative Steve Scalise (R–LA) that would require congressional approval for a carbon tax.
Though the Obama Administration has promised it will not sign a carbon tax, the President has also pledged to act on climate change if Congress won’t. Versions of carbon taxes have been pitched as a way to act against global warming, though a carbon tax would do next to nothing to lower global temperatures. Carbon-emitting sources of energy—such as natural gas, coal, and oil—make possible nearly everything we eat, wear, and use for work and pleasure. No matter how the blow could be softened, a carbon tax would still cause severe economic damage from higher energy costs in a show of doing something about global warming.
Congress spoke just as clearly on an amendment to the Energy Consumers Relief Act regarding the social cost of carbon. The amendment, raised by Representative Tim Murphy (R–PA), would prevent the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from calculating the social cost of carbon in the benefits of an energy-related rule costing over $1 billion unless Congress passes a law authorizing its use.
The social cost of carbon is an attempt to monetize the alleged damage done from emitting one ton of carbon dioxide. The Obama Administration quietly increased by half the social cost of emitting carbon dioxide in the cost-benefit analysis of a couple of ridiculous but otherwise unremarkable energy-efficiency regulations late this spring. There was no open debate in Congress on the change.
Increasing this estimate is a way to inflate the benefits of rules targeting carbon emissions that too often extend the reach of government at high expense to Americans and with few environmental benefits. Members on both sides of the aisle have criticized the Obama Administration for the lack of transparency, which the House’s vote highlighted.
The bills themselves—the REINS Act and the Energy Consumers Relief Act—bring scrutiny to a regulatory system that is clearly out of control and has removed choice further away from the individual and closer to the unelected bureaucrat. But these two particular amendments would protect American families from artificially higher energy prices and prevent the EPA from artificially raising the benefits of proposed regulations, especially given how questionable the agency’s cost-benefit analysis already is.