Committee Discusses Costs of Dealing with Carbon Emissions

WASHINGTON – Today in a joint hearing, the Science and Technology Committee’s Subcommittee on Energy and Environment and the Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Energy and Air Quality heard testimony from former Vice President Al Gore on the issue of climate change. Today’s hearing marks Mr. Gore’s first congressional appearance since releasing his Oscar-winning documentary, An Inconvenient Truth. Also testifying on the economics of climate change policy was Dr. Bjorn Lomborg, adjunct professor at Copenhagen Consensus Center of the Copenhagen Business School and one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world[1].

Science and Technology Committee Ranking Member Ralph Hall (R-TX) acknowledged climate change as a problem, but was skeptical of any program that would cost taxpayers money, while outsourcing American jobs. He said, “We must press for energy self-reliance and continue to pursue technology to combat the threat of increased carbon dioxide. These two goals are interconnected. If we tap into American ingenuity, we not only unleash the power of our nation’s competitiveness, but we also find domestic solutions for our future that are affordable, reliable and clean.”

Hall continued, “Republicans in Congress have taken this pro-growth approach over the last several years. The Energy Policy Act of 2005, for instance, included numerous initiatives for greater energy efficiency and alternative energy research and development. In the coming weeks, I plan on introducing legislation that expands on many of these initiatives so that we can continue to develop innovative solutions to our domestic energy needs.”

Dr. Lomborg also discussed the costs associated with mandatory caps on carbon emissions. He explicitly pointed out that the costs associated with any cap and trade program would not economically justify the small benefits gained, saying, “The current raft of policies that are either enacted or suggested are costly but have virtually no effect…Take the Kyoto Protocol, which even if it had been successfully adopted by all signatories (including the US and Australia) and even if it had been adhered to throughout the century, would have postponed warming by just 5 years in 2100 at a cost of $180 billion annually.”

“This does not mean we should do nothing at all about climate change,” Lomborg concluded. “It means we need to be much smarter. We need to abandon expensive and inefficient strategies like Kyoto and search for new opportunities.”

Members of both sides of the aisle agreed that our best opportunity is investing in a robust portfolio of energy research and development (R&D) holds the most promise for mediating the affects of carbon dioxide in the long run. Members also discussed the economic opportunities that developing new technologies can promote. Energy and Environment Subcommittee Ranking Member Bob Inglis (R-SC) said, “America’s inventors and entrepreneurs can deliver new and better sources of energy: cellulosic ethanol, better solar cells, next generation nuclear power and hydrogen power for our cars. And we can sell that technology around the world”

Although all Members agreed that R&D will promote a long-term energy solution, many Members argued that regulating American industry in the short-term was economically irresponsible. They said that if we cap carbon emissions only in the US, jobs and industries will move to countries that do not have these kinds of regulation.