It is worth noting that the two biggest environmental scares of recent memory-global warming and the BP oil spill-both failed to sway voters on November 2.  Quite the contrary, it was the ill-advised attempts to address them that sparked voter anger.  The Waxman-Markey bill worried the electorate more than global warming itself (and quite rightly so), and contributed to the loss of more than two dozen of its supporters in the House of Representatives.

Similarly, the BP oil spill had virtually no adverse impact on pro-drilling politicians. If anything, it was Obama’s overreaction to the spill in the form of the drilling moratorium that proved highly unpopular in Louisiana and other impacted States. The moratorium didn’t cost any Congressional seats there only because both Democrats and Republicans strongly denounced it.

President Barack Obama left on Friday for a ten-day trip to Asia beginning in India.  Before he left, he held a press conference on the election results and gave an interview to Sixty Minutes, which has been released by CBS ahead of its broadcast on Sunday night.  In reply to two questions at his press conference, the President spoke at length about alternatives to cap-and-trade.  He said, “Cap-and-trade was just one way of skinning the cat; it was not the only way.  It was a means, not an end.  And I’m going to be looking for other means to address this problem.”

The President said that there were several areas where he might be able to find common ground with the Republicans in Congress.  These included natural gas, nuclear power, and electric vehicles.  He also said that, “The EPA is under a court order that says greenhouse gases are a pollutant that fall under their jurisdiction.”  This is a misunderstanding, but he then also seemed to express some openness to congressional intervention in EPA regulation of greenhouse gas emissions: “And I think EPA wants help from the legislature on this.  I don’t think that the desire is to somehow be protective of their powers here.”

Greens Desperate to Avoid Blame” was the headline on Darren Samuelsohn and Robin Bravender’s story in Politico on Wednesday. Environmental pressure groups moved quickly to spin the election results as having nothing to do with them.  In particular, they claimed that passage in the House of the Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade bill did not cause Democrats to lose.  On the contrary, the reality is that Waxman-Markey did contribute to the defeat of a number of Democrats, as I argue in Politico’s Energy Arena.

More significant is the fact that the new Republican majority in the House is largely skeptical of the claim that global warming is a potential crisis and is close to unanimously opposed to cap-and-trade and other energy-rationing measures.  Not only is cap-and-trade dead, but there is a good chance that the House next year will move legislation to block or delay the EPA from using the Clean Air Act to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.

The question is, can such a measure pass the Democratic-controlled Senate?  There is certainly a majority in the Senate for blocking EPA, but sixty votes will be needed.  My guess is that there will be more than sixty votes.  As EPA regulations start to bite next year, Senators will start to hear complaints from their constituents.  And a number of Democratic Senators are up for re-election in 2012 and will want to avoid the fate of so many of their colleagues this year.

House Democrats who voted for the Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade bill were big losers in the congressional elections. Approximately thirty Democrats who voted for Waxman-Markey were defeated. This does not include Democratic losses in open seats in which the incumbent chose not to run for-re-election.

Representative Rick Boucher, a senior fourteen-term Democrat from Virginia’s coal district (the 9th), negotiated the deal that led to passage of Waxman-Markey by a 219-212 vote on June 26, 2009. Boucher lost and took many coal-state Democrats with him.

“One of the clearest messages voters sent last night was a repudiation of cap-and-trade and other policies to raise energy prices,” said Myron Ebell, Director of CEI’s Center for Energy and Environment.

Other House Democrats who voted for Waxman-Markey and lost include: Betsy Markey in Colorado; Alan Grayson, Allen Boyd, Suzanne Kosmas, and Ron Klein in Florida; Debbie Halvorson and Phil Hare in Illinois; Baron Hill in Indiana; Frank Kratovil in Maryland; Mark Schauer in Michigan; James Oberstar in Minnesota; Ike Skelton in Missouri; Dina Titus in Nevada; Carol Shea-Porter in New Hampshire; John Adler in New Jersey; Harry Teague in New Mexico; John Hall, Michael McMahon, and Scott Murphy in New York; Bob Etheridge in North Carolina; Zack Space, John Boccieri, Steve Driehaus, and Mary Jo Kilroy in Ohio; Patrick Murphy in Pennsylvania; John Spratt in South Carolina; Tom Perriello in Virginia; and Steve Kagen in Wisconsin.

Reconciling the various, final pre-election surveys of voter sentiment indicates a that “it’s the spending, stupid.” It is remarkable how quickly public consciousness has developed to know that debt equals taxes.

Cap-and-trade is now dead, having proven, as we predicted serially, to be the 1993 BTU tax, redux. Members in the House voted on both measures on the assurance the Senate would not leave them hanging out to dry, isolated with that difficult vote, only to see their trust misplaced. As opposition grew more intense from the people-who were not at the table when their wealth was redistributed to various interests-the senators realized that they wanted to save jobs. Theirs.

We also see that cap-and-trade’s ugly Plan B cousin, “green jobs,” is not only sure to be an obsession very soon. The public will equally soon come to understand the bankrupting expense of “green jobs” programs: in President Obama’s erstwhile model, Spain, it cost them $750,000 per (temporary) “green job,” placing the nation’s energy infrastructure and economy in peril leading to an ongoing political crisis.

All over Europe Obama’s previously touted model states are struggling to rein in the subsidy schemes which threatened to expand the Greek contagion. These are economic black holes paying small fortunes for each job created, crowding out private sector growth, displacing real jobs responding to market forces with temporary jobs that disappear when the subsidy does, as it must (see: “census jobs”). All the while they necessitate higher energy costs as part of the plan. That makes them much worse than other make-work programs like ditch-digging-and-filling.

Still, just last week Obama’s Energy Department claimed in the Washington Post that its own stimulus version of the scheme was an “unqualified success”-at a half a million dollars per temporary job created! Moreover, all parties acknowledged in the article that the bubble has to be renewed annually or it bursts. Somehow this disastrous failure proved to the Obama administration that “clean-energy investments [sic] are ready for prime time.” Oh, dear.

The coming, attempted ‘green jobs’ binge is no more than WPA-style spending, which FDR confidantes admitted as a flop, and the debt to underwrite which delays the recovery further, just as the public seems to recognize the Obama agenda has already done.

There is the coming “energy” debate in a nutshell, and how, in a rational world, it will play out. Fortunately, ‘green shoots’ of rationality do seem to be popping up. The public realize “it’s the spending, stupid” and grasp the illusory nature of economic activity predicated on such “stimulus”-style debt-spending.

Inside the Beltway

by Myron Ebell on November 1, 2010

in Blog

Elections: Running from Cap-and-Trade

Campaigns often become annoying as election day approaches, but they do have the benefit of sucking all the energy out of Washington.  Congress has been out for a month to allow Members to campaign, and even the agencies tend to go silent just before an election for fear that announcing some new rule or policy could become a damaging campaign issue.

But when Washington springs alive again after next Tuesday, it will be a city transformed by the election results.  Even if the rout of House and Senate Democrats occurs precisely as predicted (minus 50 House seats and 7 Senate seats is the average guess; here is a typical forecast), it will all look and feel different after it has happened than in anticipating it.

While the reactions to big election swings are often surprising, one thing that is absolutely clear already is that cap-and-trade has been a significant issue in the campaign and that cap-and-trade will be totally dead after November 2nd.  Every Republican incumbent and challenger is running against cap-and-trade.  Most are running against global warming alarmism.  House Democrats who voted against the Waxman-Markey bill are featuring that vote in their campaigns.  Only a handful of the more than 200 Democrats who voted to pass Waxman-Markey in 2009 are even mentioning it in their campaigns.

Cap-and-trade is especially potent as an issue in coal country.  In West Virginia, it has become so toxic that Governor Joe Manchin (D) revived his Senate campaign against John Raese by running a television ad in which he shoots a copy of one of the Senate cap-and-trade bills.   Rep. Nick Joe Rahall (D-WV)), the Chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, voted against Waxman-Markey, but is now in the race of his life against a challenger, Elliott Maynard, who is scoring points with voters by arguing that Rahall’s opposition was weak and that he in effect supports cap-and-trade because he voted for Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) for Speaker.

Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.) is in even worse shape in his nearby district in Virginia.  Boucher put the interests of his party ahead of the interests of his coal-mining district when he made a deal and rounded up the votes necessary to pass Waxman-Markey on June 26, 2009.  In 2008, Boucher didn’t have a Republican opponent.  This year Morgan Griffith appears to be running a very close race. Boucher’s loss would send an unmistakable signal to congressional candidates in energy-producing and energy-using manufacturing districts for many elections to come.