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Houston Republicans slam cap, trade bill

Houston Republicans slam cap, trade bill

Updated: 07.08.09

House Resolution 2454 has earned itself a lot of names.

Officially known as the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009, others call it the Waxman-Markey bill after its original sponsors. Listen to the news and you’ll hear it called the “cap and trade bill,” or simply “the climate legislation.”

But a group of four local Republican congressmen, and a few representatives of the Texas energy industry, had some choice words for the bill that you won’t find on opencongress.org: “onerous,” “meaningless,” “unsalvageable,” “unrealistic,” “climactically inconsequential” and “a public policy abomination.”

Led by District 22 Rep. Pete Olson, the group got together last week at the University of Houston-Clear Lake to host an “energy summit,” with the goal of educating the general public on their views of the cap and trade legislation.

Joining Olson were Reps. John Culberson of Houston’s District 7, Joe Barton of District 6 and Pete Sessions of District 32, both in the Dallas area.

Others on the panel include Pat French, senior vice president of the Texas Alliance of Energy Producers, Robert Bradley, Jr., former speech writer for the late Ken Lay and CEO of the Institute for Energy Research, Bob Kahn, president of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas and Victor Carillo, chairman of the Texas Railroad Commission.

The panelists disagreed on a minor point here and there, but were united in their stand against the “cap and tax bill,” as they called it.

“There’s some serious implications there,” Olson said, adding that he believes the Democrats in Congress refused to allow a real debate on the bill with Republicans.

The bill passed the House by a narrow margin of 7 votes, with 211 Democrats and 8 Republicans in favor and 44 Democrats and 168 Republicans against.

Olson added that insead of HR 2454, he would like to see an initiative to increase the number of nuclear power plants in the United States, coupled with a study to determine how much nuclear waste can safely be stored here.

But, he noted, “this process is far from over,” as the bill must garner 60 votes if it is to pass the Senate.

Culberson said the bill “amounts to the largest tax increase in history” and joined the others in warning of extensive job loss due to increased energy costs.

He joked that only one U.S. demographic will escape unscathed if the legislation should pass. “If you’re Amish, you should be OK. You’ll get through this all right.”

Barton said the goal of the bill is to eventually reduce the United States’ production of carbon emissions by 83 percent, a number he said would equate to the country’s energy use in the 1800s. “Can we have a modern lifestyle (if the bill is to reach its goals)? The answer is no, you cannot.”

Sessions told the audience that by 2012, more than 135,000 jobs could be lost. All on the panel contend that the bill will cause energy costs to skyrocket with very little positive impact on the environment.

“With this legislation, everything from turning on a light switch to buying a gallon of milk will cost even more,” Sessions said.

Increasing corporations’ costs by limiting their carbon emissions will not inspire them to lower their emissions, Carillo added. Instead, he said, the corporations will continue to produce at current levels and pass the additional cost on to consumers.

Several Texas representatives voted in favor of HR 2454, including Reps. Al Green and Sheila Jackson Lee of the Houston area.

Green’s office did immediately not respond to requests for a statement, while a Lee representative did not comment directly on the pros and cons of the bill, other than to say that Lee shares the concerns of others in the Texas delegation and plans to ensure that any jobs lost as a result of the legislation are replaced with other, greener jobs.