Cap And Trade’s Mandates And Subsidies Are Wrong
Following major defeats at the ballot box on Tuesday, the left’s legislative agenda suffered another huge setback yesterday when once wavering Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Judd Gregg (R-NH), Olympia Snowe (R-ME), and Susan Collins (R-ME) all signed a letter supporting Sen. George Voinovich’s (R-OH) demand that the Environmental Protection Agency provide a thorough analysis of how the Kerry-Boxer cap and trade legislation will impact the U.S. economy. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) had been pressing for swift passage of her cap and tax legislation, but conservatives on the Environment and Public Works Committee thwarted her efforts by boycotting a vote on the legislation Tuesday.
An EPA analysis on the economic costs of cap and trade is no small issue. If Tuesday’s elections proved anything, it is that jobs and economic growth are the top concern on Americans’ minds. The Heritage Foundation’s Center for Data Analysis has found that cap and tax legislation would cost the average family-of-four almost $3,000 per year, cause 2.5 million net job losses by 2035, and a produce a cumulative gross domestic product (GDP) loss of $9.4 trillion between 2012 and 2035. The EPA has issued preliminary reports reaching different conclusions; including an October 23 report on Kerry-Boxer that found it would only cost the average American family $80 to $111 dollars per year.
There are many fundamental problems with that EPA report, none more glaring than their fanciful assumption that nuclear power generation will nearly double in the next 25 years. This is the equivalent of about 100 additional nuclear power plants. The reality is that in the past 30 years, not one new nuclear power plant has been licensed. More importantly, the Kerry-Boxer approach to reviving the nuclear energy relies on the same failed policies that have crippled the U.S. nuclear energy for the past 30 years. Heritage fellows Jack Spencer and Nick Loris explain:
Instead of handing out more government subsidies to compensate for increased government regulation, Congress should be heading in the exact opposite direction. What the nuclear industry really needs is an end to market distorting loan guarantees, a streamlined permit process for new plants and reactor designs, market reforms for nuclear waste management, and the ability to recycle spent fuel. America can create thousands of new jobs through an expansion of the energy sector. But just as with oil, coal, and natural gas, the less government intervention in the market, the better.
Washington has a role to play in reducing financial barriers, but not by funding projects with taxpayer dollars. The regulatory costs and uncertainty posed by the federal bureaucracy represent significant risk to the success of the nuclear industry, just as regulatory uncertainty significantly affected the timing and budget of past nuclear plant construction. Indeed, this risk and uncertainty results in the higher prices that are most often used to justify government subsidies for nuclear projects. Efforts to reduce that risk by reforming the most obvious areas, such as the regulatory process and waste management, are nowhere to be found in the bill.
Instead, the bill attempts to reduce the financial risk caused by regulatory delays and technological development by expanding the federal government’s responsibility — and authority — on the technical side. It promotes government intervention into areas that are either unnecessary or that should reside solely in the private sector. For example, the Boxer-Kerry bill creates a research and development program to assess plant aging, improve plant performance, engineer safer fuels, and lower overall costs. These are all areas currently being addressed by the private sector and already supported by public institutions and funds.