Last Wednesday’s debate held at the Whatcom County Courthouse was reported to have been very well attended (a packed house) and because I was unable to attend the event, I asked Karl Uppiano to provide a report on the debate.
~ Kris HaltermanHi Kris,
We had a full house at the Whatcom County Courthouse (a.k.a., the council chambers) last night for the Cap & Trade Debate, hosted by the Freedom Foundation. The panel included
- Senator Doug Ericksen (R) – Chair of the Senate Energy Environment & Telecommunications Committee
- Daniel Simmons – Institute for Energy Research, Director of Regulatory and State Affairs
- Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon (D) – Chair of the House Environment Committee
- Dr. Yoram Bouman – Environmental Economist & Author
I can’t distill two hours down to a few paragraphs, but I can recount the highlights. This was a debate about Governor Inslee’s cap & trade proposal. However, we were frequently reminded by several panel members that there is actually no official policy or legislation to look at, so it is all speculation.
We were essentially told to assume that the CO2 science is settled, to accept that global warming is a foregone conclusion, and to get on with debating public policy to deal with it. (I guess nobody got the memo that the climate hasn’t been warming for over a decade.) So we listened as Dr. Yoram Bouman promoted himself, his enterprise and his books (he’s a capitalist; his shirt says so). He was the only one with multimedia charts and graphs. Pictures of where he lived in China with blue sky, and also how it looked most of the time, which was smoky. Of course, soot isn’t CO2, but most of the audience didn’t know that.
At one point, Bouman spoke to us as if we were a bunch of second year poli-sci students when he said that government could lower sales tax and property tax in order to compensate for higher energy prices to pay for carbon offsets. I don’t think anybody who has been paying taxes for 30 years believed that for one second, and the murmurs and snickers confirmed my suspicions. Dr. Bouman also kept extolling how well British Columbia’s cap & trade program is working. Nobody called him on it, and of course there wasn’t time for fact checking to see if that really is the case.
Senator Ericksen spoke of the difficulty of actually enacting a bill that satisfies everyone whose goose is likely to be cooked in this new program. He spoke of economists and legislators constantly “fiddling with the dials” of an otherwise free market. There was disagreement between the panelists about how difficult or simply this could be done. The whispers and body English from many of the people nearby where I was sitting seemed skeptical of a simple solution. Ericksen also pointed out that you can’t legislate innovation. Innovation comes in its own good time.
Daniel Simmons was the most outspoken in his objection to this kind of public policy. He said basically, that the whole point of this exercise is to raise energy prices so people use less of it. Period. And the trouble with that is, when energy prices go up, so does the price of everything else. Food, home heating, consumer goods of all kinds. And of course, the electricity that runs everything. The hardest hit will be the low and middle income families. He called cap & trade or carbon tax “cruel”.
Representative Fitzgibbon essentially agreed with Bouman in most cases, presenting the legislative case for cap & trade, or some sort of carbon tax. He was articulate, but nothing he said stands out in my mind.
Surprisingly, everyone on the panel rather liked the idea of nuclear energy as an alternative to fossil fuel, although they all acknowledged that nuclear has political and practical hurdles to clear before it would be a viable alternative. Senator Ericksen said he considers nuclear energy to be his “litmus test” for how serious someone is about the environmental in general. Since it’s a given that we can’t just shut down the power grid, and because wind and solar alternatives are far from adequate at this time, if someone is unwilling to accept nuclear energy to fill the void, then he isn’t inclined to take them very seriously.
In his closing statements, Dr. Bouman made a pitch for his books about global warming.
Karl U for Charter Review
Individual rights, local interest, local government