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Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Swap cap-and-trade for a workable energy policy


By Dan Danner
Most policymakers agree that we need an energy policy that creates sustainable economic growth, benefits all Americans and protects the environment. If that's truly the case, they should go back to the drawing board to find alternatives to the burdensome, big-government energy policies currently popular in Washington.

Proposals known as "cap-and-trade," intended to combat global warming and revamp America's energy policy, are deeply unpopular with both the voting public and the entrepreneurs who create most of the nation's new jobs.

Recent polls that my organization released are clear: An overwhelming majority of small business owners oppose cap-and-trade legislation that has passed the House of Representatives. More than 70 percent of the business owners we surveyed think that the legislation will raise energy costs, and similarly large majorities don't buy supporters' claim that it will create new jobs or improve economic growth. And virtually none said that regulating greenhouse gas emissions should rank as a top national priority.

And American voters, who we surveyed separately, agree with them: Most oppose cap and trade, would be more likely to vote against politicians who supported it, and don't believe that control of greenhouse gas emissions is a top national priority. More than 60 percent don't believe job creation claims, and just about as many believe that energy costs would rise. Quite simply, small business owners--who create between 60 and 80 percent of all new jobs--don't want cap and trade and neither do voters.

Given these realities, we hope that the cap-and-trade bill that passed the House will never fly in the Senate or land on the president's desk in anything like its current form. Aside from a few European nations that have adopted such a system (and where it hasn't worked), the system isn't going to catch on elsewhere. It's too expensive, too burdensome and too risky. And do our elected officials have the stomach to impose massive new taxes on an economy that's only beginning to emerge from a major recession?

The public opposition to doing so is evident. Given that many small businesses likely will have to pay more for healthcare and higher taxes in the coming years, the new energy taxes would come at a particularly bad time. As such, no tears should be shed for the death of cap and trade.

All that said, small business owners agree that our nation still needs better policies to address both its energy needs and the possibility of climate change. They also agree that ideas intended to increase the use of renewable energy and the aggressive promotion of nuclear energy deserve further consideration. Other proposals to encourage conservation and increase domestic production of proven energy sources like oil, gas and coal should also have a place in a comprehensive national energy policy.

America needs better energy policies. But a cap-and-trade system would only make our current problems worse. It's time to start over.

-- Danner is president and CEO of the National Federation of Independent Business in Washington, D.C.

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