Cap-and-trade proposals have been explicitly rejected in Congress no fewer than four times over the last 15 years, but President Obama and his administration will be announcing Monday his plans to charge full steam ahead, leaving the American majority behind.
President Obama's announcement will likely rehash the normal fear-tactic talking points about the theory of man-made climate change. Then he will shift his tone and use rosy words to share about his aggressive new Environmental Protection Agency proposal that will force existing power plants to regulate carbon emissions and will set the stage for states to create cap-and-trade systems in order to regulate these plants.
What's not so rosy are the numbers. Each past cap-and-trade plan rejected by Congress was estimated to cost Americans roughly $400 billion a year in de facto tax hikes. Now the president is once again looking to do through regulation what he couldn't accomplish through legislation. But myself and others are sounding the real alarm of how the president's plan will be dangerous for our economy and future job opportunities.
On May 27, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce released a report saying that climate change regulations for new and existing power plants would result in an average loss of 224,000 American jobs each year and an increase in electricity costs of $289 billion while lowering overall household incomes by more than $500 billion.
These numbers are just the tip of the iceberg. More EPA regulations like the one that will be proposed Monday threaten the reliability and affordability of our power grid, will weaken our economy, and drive more people into the unemployment lines. In a Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing on May 14, committee witness, Marvin Fertel, president and chief executive officer of the Nuclear Energy Institute, testified that EPA regulations are "shutting down the backbone of our electricity system."
Other inexpensive domestic energy producers, many of whom had to fill the gap in electricity demand during this year's polar vortex, have also warned that these regulations will force them to close their operations in the next few years. What happens for areas of our nation who face a long heat wave or cold snap in future years?
It is no wonder recent polls, such as Gallup's on March 12, show that the majority of Americans are least interested in climate change policy issues when compared to other, more important issues like the economy, job creation and even available and affordable energy.
That the president is willing to follow through on climate change policies, despite the widespread unpopularity, underscores the real motivation behind his actions: pleasing a donor base. Billionaire Tom Steyer joined the likes of Al Gore, Michael Moore and others, earlier this year when he hosted high-profile Democrats at a fundraiser and promised a $100 million war chest if they keep climate change a priority. With each speech, media interview, and EPA regulation, President Obama and others are making good on their promises.
The Obama administration's proposal must be seen for what it is: a move motivated solely by politics with little regard for the American consumer or the economy. The president will boast of the flexibility his proposal will provide, but there is no way around the fact that it could amount to the largest tax increase in American history. The big question is how the American people will respond and that decision can only be made by them at the polls this November.
Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., is the former chairman and ranking member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.