Congressman Steve Austria on Cap and Trade

On June 26, the House of Representatives approved an unprecedented climate change bill, also referred to as “cap and trade”, by a vote of 219 to 212. While we all want clean air and policies that promote cleaner, more efficient energy sources, I voted against this bill due to my concerns surrounding the negative impact this legislation could have, particularly on the state of Ohio.

If enacted into law, this bill would have major implications for almost every sector of our nation’s economy. The bill places a “cap” on U.S. carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, and ultimately amounts to a new energy tax on everything we consume from gasoline to electricity. As may you know, Ohio derives almost 90 percent of its energy production from coal, which will be heavily taxed under this proposal. This energy tax will be passed along to families and small businesses already struggling in the midst of the harsh economic climate. Anyone who turns on the lights and uses electricity, heats their homes with natural gas or puts gasoline in their car will see an increase in the cost of energy.

In addition, this bill will make U.S. businesses less competitive globally as they are forced to compete with businesses in countries, which do not have similar restrictions, such as China and India. Ohio’s economy relies heavily on manufacturing and this new tax could result in signficant job losses as businesses, which can not afford to meet the cap, will be forced to shut down or move operations overseas.

I was also disappointed with the process by which this legislation was considered. The bill was changed significantly at 3 a.m. the day of the vote, which I believe gave members insufficient time to read its 1,400 pages. Additionally, few amendments were permitted to be considered – amendments that may have improved the bill. In my view, when Congress is considering an issue as important as fundamentally changing out nation’s energy policy, we need to do it thoughtfully and correctly. I hope that when the Senate considers the bill, it is given the time and diligent attention it deserves.

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