Obama Attacks Coal, Mary Landrieu Does Some Damage Control

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Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA)Heritage ActionScorecardSen. Mary Landrieu2%Senate Democrat AverageSee Full Scorecard2% has a Heritage Action scorecard score of 2 percent — something that should make conservatives cringe.  Her score demonstrates that with almost every vote she takes, she diminishes our freedom and prosperity and grows big government.

In light of the votes she’s taken in the Senate, it’s almost humorous that on one very important issue, she’s trying desperately to distance herself from President Obama and the left: coal.

This week the Sen. Landrieu will visit (sub. req’d) the Big Cajun II coal-fired power plant in New Roads, Louisiana, where she will tour the plant, meet the workers, and hold a roundtable discussion with power industry leaders.”  CQ.com notes:

Landrieu’s opposition isn’t likely to make much of a difference in the White House’s eyes, but it gives the endangered incumbent a chance to separate herself from a president who isn’t particularly popular in Louisiana. She joins other Democrats running in red states, particularly Alison Lundergan Grimes in Kentucky, to vigorously oppose the president’s latest push on climate.

Earlier this month, the Obama Administration unveiled a climate action plan that it plans to implement without legislative approval.  Congress has refused to pass cap-and-trade legislation to date, so President Obama is using the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to implement new carbon rules for existing power plants.

“The EPA’s New Source Performance Standards for GHG emissions from existing sources set reduction targets at 25 percent below 2005 levels by 2020 and 30 percent by 2030,” explains Nick Loris of the Heritage Foundation.

This unilateral action by the President and his administration not only undermines Congress, but the new regulations will have almost no noticeable impact on global temperatures.   They will, however, severely harm our nation’s poor, who spend a disproportionately large amount of their income on energy.  “The median family spends about 5 cents out of every dollar on energy costs, but low-income families spend about 20 cents,” Loris notes.  

Coal miners are also concerned the new EPA regulations will mean one less way to earn a living — and a good one at that.  One Ohio Valley coal miner said, “People need jobs.  These are high-paying, good jobs for people.  They are basically cutting them.”

 

What will the GOP do about the Latest Cap and Trade Scheme?

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It is has been noted in recent years that a good percentage of Americans do not pay income taxes.  However, we must remember that all Americans incur the cost of the hidden tax of regulations.  According to the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), burdensome regulations drain $1.86 trillion from the private economy every year.  The tab is $15,000 per family, more than many families pay in federal income taxes.

The cost of the regulatory state is paid for in the form of higher costs for food, energy, transportation, and healthcare.  It is also actualized in the form of lower wages and less job opportunities.

As CEI notes, just last year the administration finalized another 3,659 regulations. It’s no surprise that five years into the most tepid economic recovery in recent years, the economy is actually contracting again.

Naturally, the Obama administration is planning to rub salt on the wounds of the American economy by implementing Cap and Trade style regulations that will shutter American manufacturing.  The EPA has released a 645-page plan forcing all power plants to reduce “greenhouse gas emissions” by 30 percent below 2005 levels by 2030.  Much like Obama’s administrative Dream Act, this devastating version of Cap and Trade never passed Congress.

So after creating a permanent part-time economy and driving up the cost of healthcare with Obamacare, this administration seeks to crush the average family with higher energy costs, which in turn, jack up the cost of most other vital goods and services.

In recent months, a slew of Republicans have introduced policy proposals attempting to appeal to middle class families.  There is no better way to advocate reducing government than by promising to reduce the regulatory state.  Along with repeal of Obamacare and opposing open borders (which hurts workers and taxpayers), the crushing burden of energy regulations must play prominent in any general election campaign.

On the surface, this is an issue for which all Republicans can unite and fight with a coherent message.  After all, the Chamber of Commerce is actually on the right side of the issue.  But there are two important observations that cannot be overlooked.

It’s easy for the Chamber and establishment Republicans to act outraged over the regulatory state when the EPA announces crushing regulations.  But what these people fail to see is that they are responsible for growing government and interjecting it into every aspect of the economy – to the point that they now feel that can control entire industries, such as energy, healthcare, and financial services.  People like Thad Cochran can’t have it both ways.  They can’t embrace the federal hand that subsidizes private enterprise and then complain about the hand that regulates them into submission. It is years’ worth of bipartisan work from the Chamber and pay-for-play Republicans to expand the role of government that has allowed the bureaucracies to grow large and brazen enough to regulate anything that moves.

The other point to consider is that although all establishment Republicans claim to be outraged over the latest Cap and Trade scheme, what are they going to do about it?  Remember, even if Republicans win control of the Senate, it will not change the balance of power.  They will not have control over the executive agencies, and Obama will be as truculent as ever in ruling by administrative fiat during the lame duck of his presidency.  Republicans already have control of the purse-string in the House – the last recourse to check against abuse of executive power – yet they sabotaged our only attempt to use it.

At some point, Republicans need to look beyond the next election to solving the constitutional crisis that is upon us.

Email Your Senators to Oppose the EXPIRE Act

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This week, the Senate is expected to consider the Expiring Provisions Improvement, Reform, and Efficiency (EXPIRE) Act of 2014 (S. 2260) sponsored by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR)Heritage ActionScorecardSen. Ron Wyden4%Senate Democrat AverageSee Full Scorecard4%. The EXPIRE Act would temporarily extend more than 50 expiring tax provisions pertaining to individual and business taxpayers and the energy sector through 2015.

The Senate’s tax extenders — and indeed the entire process surrounding the extension of expiring tax provisions — is one of the most egregious examples of Washington using its powers to prop up well connected interests.

For example, the Senate package includes over a dozen targeted tax provisions aimed at energy production, most of which are geared toward so-called green energy.  According to the Heritage Foundation, Congress designed many of the provisions to “artificially tilt the energy market in the direction of certain renewable sources or reward certain taxpayers for behaving how the government would like them to.”  Others are “narrowly tailored so only certain industries can benefit, which is unfair.”

Reviving a repeatedly-extended tax policy os not a tax cut. The EXPIRE Act (S.2260) is bad policy and should be opposed. Use POPVOX to email your Senators and oppose the EXPIRE Act. Continue reading

Conservatives Ditch Bush-era Energy Policy

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Our nation’s energy policy has not undergone substantial, congressional-driven change since 2007.  And yes, that was the year Washington decided to ban the incandescent light bulb.  Fortunately, conservatives in Congress are now developing innovative, free-market solutions that promise to create and secure jobs while reducing everyday costs for all Americans.  I run through four of the most impressive bills in my Foundry column this week:

Rep. Cory Gardner (R-CO)Heritage ActionScorecardRep. Cory Gardner64%House Republican AverageSee Full Scorecard64% has taken the lead on expediting the approval process for liquified natural gas (LNG) exports. This may seem like a small issue, but Gardner’s Domestic Prosperity and Global Freedom Act would address the natural gas permitting backlog that has been preventing America from taking full advantage of one of the most promising domestic sources of energy. That would create jobs here at home and, as many others have pointed out, help undermine Russia’s strategy of energy extortion abroad. 

Read the  rest to see how Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK)Heritage ActionScorecardRep. Jim Bridenstine95%House Republican AverageSee Full Scorecard95%Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)Heritage ActionScorecardSen. Ted Cruz98%Senate Republican AverageSee Full Scorecard98%Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)Heritage ActionScorecardSen. Ted Cruz98%Senate Republican AverageSee Full Scorecard98%Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT)Heritage ActionScorecardSen. Mike Lee100%Senate Republican AverageSee Full Scorecard100% and Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS)Heritage ActionScorecardRep. Mike Pompeo89%House Republican AverageSee Full Scorecard89% are changing the energy dynamics within the Republican Party.

Heritage Expert Defines ‘Volunteer’ for Senators

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“A big part of the definition of “volunteer” is not getting paid to do it.”

The Heritage Foundation’s Nicolas Loris,  an economic policy analyst, has had to clarify this definition for some lawmakers who think that the energy efficiency building codes in their bill are still ‘voluntary’ if states and tribal groups are paid to follow them.

Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH)Heritage ActionScorecardSen. Rob Portman54%Senate Republican AverageSee Full Scorecard54% and Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH)Heritage ActionScorecardSen. Jeanne Shaheen7%Senate Democrat AverageSee Full Scorecard7%, sponsors of the Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act of 2013, seem to think their bill conforms to free-market principles — or at least that’s how they’re selling it.  

Loris states:

Portman pitches the legislation as a pro-market, pro-decentralized-decision-making measure. But handouts for manufacturers are not free market.  Nor are the subsidized workforce training programs or forcing energy efficiency into mortgage appraisals.

Furthermore, the bill authorizes $200 million of taxpayer money to “incentivize and assist” states and tribal groups to meet allegedly voluntary building codes.  A big part of the definition of “volunteer” is not getting paid to do it.  On top of that, the federal government already has provided billions of dollars in taxpayer money to dole out to states for efficiency improvements.

Sen. Portman writes, “Rather than instituting expensive, indefinite federal subsidy programs that benefit particular industries or technologies and distort the market, ESIC puts power in the hands of American businesses and American consumers.”  Yet, a few sentences later he boasts about the 270 businesses and trade associations that support the legislation.  And this legislation won’t benefit special interests?

Loris doesn’t buy into the ‘voluntary’ or ‘pro-market’ nature of this bill, and taxpayers and consumers shouldn’t either.  The truth is Shaheen-Portman is “a federal government interventionist and handout wolf in allegedly voluntary, market-based sheep’s clothing.”

Email Your Senator to Oppose the Shaheen-Portman Energy Efficiency Bill

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Next week, the Senate is likely to consider the Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act of 2013 (S. 2262). Introduced by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH)Heritage ActionScorecardSen. Jeanne Shaheen7%Senate Democrat AverageSee Full Scorecard7% and Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH)Heritage ActionScorecardSen. Rob Portman54%Senate Republican AverageSee Full Scorecard54% it claims to promote energy savings in industrial and commercial buildings. The bill provides taxpayer-funded federal incentives to make building and manufacturing processes more efficient, but these “incentives” would burden taxpayers and consumers alike while producing no tangible benefits. They are also duplicative of federal and state efforts.

This inappropriate intervention comes in the form of ‘voluntary’ federal mandates and taxpayer funded subsidies for energy efficiency updates in state government and tribal buildings. Specifically, Heritage notes, “The bill authorizes $200 million of taxpayer money to “incentivize and assist” states and tribal groups to meet allegedly voluntary building codes.”

As Heritage notes, only the free-market has been proven to decrease costs and increase efficiency in energy production. The federal government’s role in energy efficiency should be limited to providing information to consumers make well-informed decisions. This legislation allows the government to overstep its boundaries.

Use the POPVOX form below and tell your Senators that the Shaheen-Portman Energy Efficiency Bill is bad policy and should be opposed.

A Poor Attempt to Sweeten the Deal on Shaheen–Portman Energy Efficiency Bill

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If lawmakers add amendments to a flawed bill in an attempt to attract more support for the bill, but the overall legislation remains flawed, should that be sufficient to satisfy the original policy concerns?

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH)Heritage ActionScorecardSen. Jeanne Shaheen7%Senate Democrat AverageSee Full Scorecard7% and Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH)Heritage ActionScorecardSen. Rob Portman53%Senate Republican AverageSee Full Scorecard53% seem to be using this tactic to gain co-sponsors for their bill, the Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act (S. 761).  With the addition of ten amendments, they’ve gained new co-sponsors such as Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND)Heritage ActionScorecardSen. John Hoeven44%Senate Republican AverageSee Full Scorecard44%, Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-WV)Heritage ActionScorecardSen. Joe Manchin III12%Senate Democrat AverageSee Full Scorecard12%, Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA)Heritage ActionScorecardSen. Mary Landrieu2%Senate Democrat AverageSee Full Scorecard2% and Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA)Heritage ActionScorecardSen. Johnny Isakson52%Senate Republican AverageSee Full Scorecard52%.

Energized by this new support, reports indicate the Senate will begin debating the bill once again after the Easter recess.  First introduced in 2011, Shaheen–Portman, as the bill is known, has not been able to pass out of the Senate for years.  Most recently, it was pulled from the Senate floor in October — due in part to an attempt to attach amendments to defund Obamacare and authorize the Keystone pipeline — and since then, its sponsors have been “shopping it around for additional support, and making compromises.”

But having additional support does not mean legislation would be any better for taxpayers.  It ”relies on taxpayer-funded handouts, not the market, to generate efficiency improvements.”   It is full of taxpayer-funded handouts for commercial and residential building upgrades, manufacturing and industrial processes, and worker training programs.  As we noted in our key vote against the bill last year, it is “fatally flawed because it is based on the idea that businesses and families will act irrationally unless the government intervenes.”

The Heritage Foundation’s Nicolas Loris has explained, the government should not use taxpayer money to encourage energy efficiency when actors in the private sector are perfectly capable of and willing to use resources in the most efficient manner:

Shaheen–Portman ignores the long-standing truth that the free market promotes efficiency much better than the federal government. Congress should provide information, not subsidies, and make certain that efficiency improvements in the federal government actually save taxpayer money.

If individuals and businesses “do not take full advantage of efficiency gains, it is because they are weighing other factors,” Loris stated.

If the ten new amendments added to the bill don’t address the bill’s fundamental problems, they shouldn’t sway lawmakers interested in protecting taxpayers from more unnecessary spending.  Congress should contribute to energy efficiency by providing information on a voluntary basis, not by dangling the carrots of taxpayer subsidies.

Before the Senate began debate on the bill in 2013, Loris  suggested, “If these initiatives promise savings for families and businesses, Members of Congress should question why taxpayer money is necessary to help fund them.”  When they debate the bill after the recess, they still need to answer that question.

Why Taxpayers Should Care About Cellulosic Ethanol

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Cellulosic ethanol, a form of non-food based fuel produced from sources such as algae, wood chips, and corn stover,  is not a likely topic of dinner table discussion.  But as taxpayers, whether we were aware of it or not, we have been involved in attempts to produce it for many years.

Why?  The Chairwoman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI)Heritage ActionScorecardSen. Debbie Stabenow0%Senate Democrat AverageSee Full Scorecard0% is convinced it’s a central part of becoming energy independent and lowering our gas prices at the pump.

Without questioning the viability of these biofuels in the free market, Sen. Stabenow champions “tax credits to support long term investments in our energy future.”  Translation: she wants taxpayers to be forced to subsidize companies that produce these biofuels.  And this year, she got her way with the passage of the food stamp and farm bill.

She made the following remark at a hearing entitled  ”Advanced Biofuels: Creating Jobs and Lower Prices at the Pump“:

We’ve heard for years that advance bio-fuels are just around the corner.  Well, we’re here.  We’re at the point where it’s actually happening.  Instead of having one more hearing where we hear ‘five years from now, we’ll have cellulosic ethanol,’ we are excited to have people here today that will be able to touch on some of the success stories that are out there.

She continued:

As we all know, the farm bill is a jobs bill and that’s why I’m so proud of the work that we all did together in developing a robust  energy title.  The energy title funds critical programs to help our farmers produce energy from non-food sources and helps companies get low interest loans for those facilities.  And of course all of that creates jobs.

The farm bill is about “creating jobs and growing rural economies while producing advanced biofuels, which ultimately help us become more energy independent and lower our gas prices at the pump,” she said toward the conclusion of her remarks.

She succeeded in putting an attractive veneer on the underlying reality of subjecting taxpayers to funding these efforts.  As the Heritage Foundation’s Nicolas Loris explains:

First, it is not the role of the government to lower financial risk. Markets take on risks all the time. Government involvement only privatizes the gains and socializes the losses. Second, good economic ideas overcome the chicken-and-egg situation all the time without government assistance. We have gas stations and gas-powered cars, cell phones and cell towers. No big government programs were necessary to make that happen.

Sen. Stabenow admitted in her remarks that companies can make progress with biofuels without taxpayer support, but immediately followed that up by advocating once again for taxpayer backing for other biofuels companies seeking such support:

Some of our airlines have undertaken their own biofuels initiatives because it makes good business sense for them to do so.  But to continue growing this industry we need policies that support it.

As Loris explains the private sector is fully capable of advancing this industry on its own, with out “policies that support it,” or taxpayer backing:

You know who else can do all those things if they make economic sense? The private sector.  If these efficiency improvement, renewable energy installation or increased biodiesel use for transportation make sense, private companies can pay for, develop and sell the production without the “assistance” of the taxpayer.

Ending subsidies for all energy sources is the only fair thing to do for taxpayers and consumers.  That way, the most desirable, viable products will be produced at the most affordable rates.  As Heritage puts it, “Subsidizing energy sources merely shifts labor and capital away from economically viable projects that would actually help to grow the economy to politically popular projects.”

To the end of protecting taxpayers and consumers, Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS)Heritage ActionScorecardRep. Mike Pompeo88%House Republican AverageSee Full Scorecard88% introduced the Energy Freedom and Economic Prosperity Act (H.R. 259), which would eliminate all current energy subsidies in the tax code.  If you want these biofuels subsidies to end, tell your representative to support Rep. Pompeo’s energy bill in the form below.

Remove Government Barriers to American Energy Renaissance

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If you want to argue it’s the private sector, not government, that creates jobs, look no further than the energy sector of the U.S. economy.  Energy production on private and state-owned lands puts energy production on federal lands to shame.  Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)Heritage ActionScorecardSen. Ted Cruz98%Senate Republican AverageSee Full Scorecard98% knows this.  That’s why he introduced the American Energy Renaissance Act, which would allow the booming energy sector in America to “shine even brighter” by removing government barriers to success.

The Heritage Foundation’s Nick Loris explains:

If you’re having trouble locating the massive gains in energy supplies, job growth, and economic well-being, just look to our nation’s private and state-owned lands. States like North Dakota, Texas, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Arkansas, and others have thrived whereas, on land the federal government owns (half of the West and one-third of the entire U.S.), production has stagnated or decreased.

Cruz’s bill would, among other reforms, expedite the permitting process for shale oil and shale gas deposits production ”by giving states the option to manage energy production on federal lands.”

The states have proven far more efficient than the federal government in terms carrying out the permitting process.  ”For example, North Dakota processes a permit in an average of 10 days; yet, due to a complicated and onerous process, the average processing time for a permit to drill on federal lands is almost a year,” Loris states.

In addition, Cruz’s bill would open access to domestic resources, streamline regulations to expand energy infrastructure, and increase the ability to diversify global energy markets.  It would lift antiquated restrictions on exports as well.  This would help countries like Ukraine by increasing competition and choice for them, rather than allowing Russia to hold them in a tight energy grip, Loris explains.

The bill also prohibits any federal agency to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.  Yes, that’s a good thing:

If the EPA is successful in implementing climate change regulations, hundreds of thousands of jobs will be lost,inflicting significant damage on America’s manufacturing baseand squandering trillions of dollars in GDP. And if the EPA is successful with these regulations, the reduction in global temperature as a result of avoided CO2 emissions will be a few tenths of a degree Celsius.

As Sen. Cruz articulated at the Heritage Action Conservative Policy Summit last month, “barriers coming from Washington are making it harder and harder for people who are struggling to achieve the American Dream.”  His bill would change that trajectory for the better, by removing these artificial, government created barriers to success.

Mary Landrieu and the War on American Energy

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Earlier this month, we shared concerning details about Rhea Suh, President Obama’s nominee to be the next Assistant Secretary for Fish, Wildlife, and Parks for the Department of Interior. Interestingly, Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA)Heritage ActionScorecardSen. Mary Landrieu3%Senate Democrat AverageSee Full Scorecard3% supports Suh despite clear indications that she would threaten energy related jobs, especially in Landrieu’s state of Louisiana:

While two committee hearings on Suh’s nomination have raised significant concerns about her qualifications, Suh’s recorded sentiments are the real concern. For example, prior to her work at Interior, Suh facilitated environmental grants with the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and later the David and Lucille Packard Foundation where she opined :

The focus is on natural gas development throughout the inter-mountain West and in Canada. The pace and magnitude of this development is easily the single greatest threat to the ecological integrity of the West.

And:

Climate change, population growth and unfettered development threaten much of the West’s iconic landscapes.

Thursday, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee approved Suh’s nomination, and Landrieu is still singing her praises:

“This position is charged not with overseeing energy production, but with overseeing fish, wildlife and parks,” Landrieu said. “Ms. Suh repeatedly reiterated her support for natural gas production before this committee. She stated unequivocally that she would absolutely support responsible development of natural gas and other fossil fuels from our public lands.”

But it seems Mary Landrieu’s remarks are more politically than factually motivated.

As Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY)Heritage ActionScorecardSen. John Barrasso77%Senate Republican AverageSee Full Scorecard77% said, “If confirmed, she would be able to block natural gas production on public lands and private property.  In light of Ms. Suh’s past statements and actions, I expect her to do exactly that.”

The Louisianans who have lost jobs because of policies Suh was instrumental in implementing shouldn’t be as forgiving as Mary Landrieu of Suh’s green-friendly ideology and anti-natural gas mentality.