Posts Tagged ‘Pitts’

Republicans and Hot Air

Sunday, June 28th, 2009

Remember during the election, when conservatives mocked Obama for this line in his stump speech: “I am absolutely certain that generations from now, we will be able to look back and tell our children … this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal”?

(On June 4, 2008, to refresh your memory with just one example, Commentary’s blog ran this headline as Alarming News: “Obama to lower ocean levels and heal planet. No, really.”)

Well, don’t look now. On Friday, we woke to the news that for the first time in history, the U.S. House of Representatives, thanks to Obama’s leadership, passed a bill that would seriously begin to address global warming.

As the New York Times writes:

The vote was the first time either house of Congress had approved a bill meant to curb the heat-trapping gases scientists have linked to climate change. The legislation … could lead to profound changes in many sectors of the economy, including electric power generation, agriculture, manufacturing and construction.

It’s a large, complicated bill, but here’s the nut: The bill would set up a “cap and trade” system, setting a cap on overall emissions of heat-trapping gases in the U.S.; industries would have to buy permits, allowing them to pay $13 per ton of carbon dioxide emitted; manufacturers and utilities would then trade these carbon allowances among themselves. Essentially, they would pay to pollute. It would be phased in over time (the bill requires a 20 percent CO2 cut by 2020, a 42 percent cut by 2030, and an 83 percent cut by 2050), forcing manufacturers to come up with cleaner methods of production.

Slate writes that the 219-212 vote was one brief shining moment for the environment:

The bill would transform the U.S. economy in four decades, replacing the vast majority of American’s carbon dioxide emissions and fossil fuel consumption with a clean energy economy built around energy efficiency and renewable energy.

[It] would push tremendous amounts of low-carbon energy into the electric sector. Obama’s stimulus bill had already directed $90 billion toward clean energy, dramatically boosting projections of wind and solar and biomass energy penetration in the near term.

It doesn’t go as far as we need to — but it’s a start. And, best of all, to facilitate the program, the average American household would pay only $175 a year extra in energy costs by 2020. That amounts, as Slate writes, to “about a postage stamp a day.”

Still, Republicans predict it will devastate the economy. And word is it’s going to take a huge effort from Obama and his White House to get it through the Senate.

“No matter how you doctor it or tailor it,” Representative Joe Pitts, Republican of Pennsylvania, told the Times in a typical critique, “it is a tax.”

To which I would respond with a midrash, or interpretation, from last week’s Torah portion, about Korah’s failed rebellion against Moses and Aaron.

One tradition pictures Korah complaining about the tithes and offerings Moses demanded of the people, saying “You lay a heavier burden on us than the Egyptians did.” Korah, in this midrash, never mentions that these taxes were designed to help the poor, to maintain the sanctuary, and to give the Israelites ways of expressing their gratitude to God and their dependence on God.

To maintain the sanctuary.

No matter how you doctor it or tailor it, if we fail to address global warming, we are facing massive sea-level rise, widespread desertification, and a 10-degree fahrenheit rise over much of the inland U.S.

Would somebody mind telling me a single thing that this current crop of G.O.P. lawmakers is for?