The President, as I mentioned below, stepped back from calling for a ruinous cap and trade scheme, but his speech still lays out a blueprint for slow motion economic decline. It legitimizes global warming alarmism and undermines opposition in Congress to disastrous energy-rationing policies, such as the Lieberman-Warner bill.
President Bush’s global warming proposals could have been worse. Bereft of the cap and trade call, however, it became a stunningly pointless speech that was unnecessary. While the President said that the global warming debate was intensifying, the fact is that global warming alarmism is on the verge of collapse all around the world thanks to the stark lessons of reality. If anything, by delivering this speech the President has only helped to intensify the alarmist agenda.
Thanks to strong and quick conservative opposition, the President did indeed step back from some of the most damaging proposals being considered in the White House—for instance, supporting a cap-and-trade for utilities. Yet it’s not clear what exactly is left. His emphasis on new technologies is encouraging, although it opens the door to massive government subsidies. The vague principles relating to the incentives he outlined could support sensible policies, or, more likely, damaging policies.
President Bush has unfortunately moved the debate toward energy rationing policies that will raise the electricity and gasoline prices paid by consumers. But, perhaps we should be grateful that he hasn’t moved the debate far enough to please the global warming alarmists. Grist, Joe Romm and the Center for American Progress are all incensed.
The best point in the speech was the strong opposition to carbon tariffs and trade wars, as favored by the French. That needed to be said. He also said raising taxes was no way to deal with the problem–meaning his “incentives” probably can’t be interpreted as a carbon tax, and, in fact, expensing might meet the strictures. (But so would cap and trade.) He also rightly outlined the regulatory nightmare caused by activist litigation; however, he has had ample warning of that–Chris Horner’s paper five years ago warned exactly how this would happen.
The upshot: an unnecessary and unhelpful intervention in a debate that for all the hype, was actually progressing satisfactorily on its own.