Eric Cantor is Right About Obama’s Climate Plan

Although his Twitter buzz is currently getting overshadowed by the SCOTUS ruling on the Voting Rights Act, Obama started his big push for action on climate change today. As expected, the administration is sticking to its ‘more of everything’ approach, which means the Climate Action Plan released today is a sprawling document that leaves a lot of questions about how the vague initiatives will all play out.

Helpfully, Eric Cantor offers his summary:

@GOPLeader: More taxes and regulation on America’s energy suppliers will only make energy prices go up.

This rebuttal is both devastating and stupid, because the whole point is to make energy more expensive. Burning fossil fuels exerts a cost on the environment that is not reflected in energy prices. All policies designed to address this problem should follow the same fundamental mechanism: they will reduce national energy usage by making it more expensive.

In the long-term, investments in renewable energy might pay off by bringing $/gigawatt prices below the current levels set by low-cost, high-pollution producers. But there’s short term pain associated with those investments. This is true whether taxpaying Americans are paying for the R&D costs directly, through federal grants and subsidies; or indirectly, through taxes on greenhouse gases that will spur private-sector investment in the green alternatives that suddenly have a chance at being the cheapest option.

A real argument might question whether the economy of a very large, spread-out country used to powering itself with cheap energy can withstand the economic headwinds of a large increase in fuel and electricity costs. Especially if that country is still trying to recover from a particularly long and deep recession. Given the support for borrowing from the future to stimulate our way out of economic malaise through federal spending, should we not also consider “borrowing” some degree of environmental health in order to leave a stronger economy to future generations?

I’m not sure of the answer. But it’s a fair question, and one that I wish conservatives would make more explicitly, rather than ignoring or outright denying the effects of climate change.

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