Farm Groups Wary of New Climate Change Bill
by Gary Truitt
Hoosier Ag Today
Senators John Kerry (D, Massachusetts) and Joe Lieberman (I, Connecticut) unveiled climate-change legislation on Wednesday, although the bill‘s chances of success are uncertain. The bill would focus on addressing the largest carbon-emitting sectors of the economy: heavy industry, power plants, and transportation infrastructure. It would target a 17% reduction in U.S. carbon pollution by 2020 and over 80% by 2050. It would contain a cap-and-trade system that would levy a tax against the largest emitters. Initially, the rate would be set at $12 a ton, increasing at 3% above inflation annually thereafter. An initial ceiling of $25 per ton would also be included.
The new legislation got a stamp of approval from the National Farmers Union, who supported the House version of cap-and- trade, “NFU has long supported legislation that provides an opportunity for agriculture to play a positive role in addressing our climate and energy needs. The discussion draft announced today continues along that path,” said NFU President Roger Johnson. The National Corn Growers Association took a more cautious approach. “The National Corn Growers Association is reviewing the discussion draft of the American Power Act released today by Senators John Kerry and Joe Lieberman. We have provided input to the Senate over the past several months on provisions pertaining to the agriculture industry, and we will continue to offer feedback after we have a chance to review the text of this important piece of legislation,” said NCGA President Darrin Ihnen.
Tamara Thies, Chief Environmental Council for the National Cattleman’s Beef Association, says agriculture needs to beware of all efforts to regulate climate change, “All this regulation and expense is based on an alarmist environmental agenda and not on sound science.” She says, regardless of the specifics of the legislation, the science behind climate change is flawed, “The American people deserve better than decisions from this administration that are not based on science or truth, but rather are based on a radical, anti-business, anti-agriculture, alarmist agenda that lacks a credible scientific foundation.”
The American Farm Bureau Federation also expressed concerns about efforts to regulate climate change. AFBF President Bob Stallman released a statement that said, “As with other climate change bills, we have concerns about the economic impact on farmers and ranchers because of potentially higher fertilizer and energy costs. We do not want to see farmers driven out of business due to additional regulation and the potential for higher input costs. Agriculture also could be forced to shrink due to land moving out of production into trees to sequester carbon. We also believe it is imperative that any energy legislation must assure a greater supply of nuclear energy, renewable fuels, and natural gas for American consumers. Further, we note the absence of renewable electricity standards in the bill and will work toward their inclusion in the future.”
The Obama administration wants action on climate change, but other issues like immigration plus election year politics make many lawmakers uneasy about tacking such a controversial issue. In a prepared statement the President said, “This legislation will put America on the path to a clean energy economy that will create American jobs building the solar panels, wind blades, and the car batteries of the future. It will strengthen our national security by beginning to break our dependence on foreign oil. And it will protect our environment for our children and grandchildren.”
With most Republicans and many Democrats opposing climate change legislation, the White House may turn to the EPA to implement a cap-and-trade system. Thies says that would not be good for agriculture, “That would give the EPA authority to tell farmers they would have to get expensive permits in order to emit a certain amount of carbon dioxide.” She added many producers would be forced to shut down food production. Link
Everyone is still sifting through the legislation trying to determine what it will do, but one thing is for certain, it will increase the cost of energy every year. Over half of the electricity used in this country comes from coal. The cost of that will increase every year until they are forced out of business and the millions of miners and other workers in that industry will be out of job. Along with that, it will make electricity less affordable for working families in this country. Unless you use a sail to propel your vehicle, the cost of driving will go up as well, even if you have an electric car. I don’t disagree that we need to be finding newer sources of energy but it is reckless to get rid of our most reliable and affordable sources when we have nothing to replace them with.