Conservatives of America, unite. You have nothing to lose but regulations and subsidies. Hark. Listen up. Pay attention. And if there is any other cliché that might get your attention, pencil it in.
The window of opportunity is closing for those of us who mourn the murder of the coal industry, the pouring of billions in subsidies into technologies to capture the wind and the sun to produce power at high cost and in locations far from markets, the payment of $7,500 subsidies to rich people so that they can buy $85,000 electric cars to substitute for their SUVs on short trips to the golf course, the growth of an Environmental Protection Agency that refuses to reveal the data underlying its outpouring of regulations, the use of a presidential pen to eliminate the need to involve congress in shaping the rules that govern our economy -- there’s more, but you get the idea.
The forces pressing for more of the above are meeting in, if not secrecy, obscurity in venues around the world, preparing for the final push in Paris in December. The Pope of Rome has thrown his divisions, armed with copies of Laudato Si’, behind the President of the United States to bolster the drive for an international pact aimed at enshrining costly regulations to reduce carbon emissions and redistribute some $100 billion every year from developed (that’s us) to undeveloped countries, billions that experience teaches will end up in the Swiss bank accounts of African dictators. No sense waving banners saying that the earth is not warming, or that if it is CO2 emissions are not the cause. Those skirmishes have been lost, and a new battle line must be drawn. Even the regulation-loving Chinese communists know that, and have dusted off the battle manual prepared, not by Mao, but by Adam Smith in order to hold back the retrograde forces of the regulatory state.
We have no one to blame but ourselves for the fact that the American president goes into the meeting in Paris to devise a system for controlling emissions armed only with regulatory weapons. Conservatives in congress long ago denied him the market-oriented system of cap-and-trade that would have permitted low-cost solutions to replace more expensive one, and that Republicans had developed for use in cleaning our air. And the no-new-taxes, even if they are offset by lowering older taxes, crowd has prevented the adoption of carbon taxes that would provide an efficient method of controlling emissions, and funds with which to cut growth-stifling employee payroll taxes.
There is still time to salvage something from the wreckage of a sensible, market-based policy. Jeremy Rabkin (TWS July 27) has suggested several ways that congress might make clear to the delegates that Obama does not speak for congress, which would surely reject whatever emerges from the Paris synod, and that our Constitution means he therefore cannot bind America. That’s fine, as far as it goes. But conservatives might pre-empt the EPA-heavy regulatory nightmare to which the president will attempt to commit his predecessors – who knows what this erratic Supreme Court might say about the binding nature of the Paris Accord, or Manifesto, or Deal – by getting behind a carbon tax that directs the proceeds to the reduction of the workers’ share of the payroll tax, without whatever anti-regressivity wrinkles are required.
Remember: if legislation forces the President to alter his plans in Paris, he will have an important ally: communist China is submitting a plan that relies on market forces to reduce its emission.