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Base energy solutions on policy, not politics
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By the week’s end, the U.S. House of Representatives could vote on one of the most significant and potentially detrimental bills in recent history — one that will exponentially increase the cost of energy and threaten Georgia’s economic competitiveness while making only a negligible impact on global carbon emissions.

The American Clean Energy and Security Act is a 1,200-page bill that will impose sweeping changes intended to lower CO2 emissions and encourage the use of renewable energy sources.  While these are laudable goals, the means of achieving them through this bill would essentially impose a multitrillion-dollar energy tax on all Americans — over $1,600 a year for the typical household – while reducing the United States’ contribution to global CO2 emissions by only 4 percent, resulting in a minimal change in worldwide climate.  

The bill centers around a program called “cap and trade,” which would give industries the option of reducing emissions, purchasing credits for exceeding established caps, or paying increased taxes.  

This legislation is rife with problems:

It insists on a 20 percent increase in renewable energy sources by 2020, but does not include provisions to ensure they can be distributed across the electric grid.

It places a significant burden on oil refineries, which will translate directly to an increase of as much as 77 cents per gallon of gasoline, 83 cents for jet fuel and 88 cents for diesel.

Most disconcerting for the South and other coal-dependent areas, it sets virtually impossible targets for coal-fired power plants, leaving them subject to expensive retooling while disregarding carbon-free energy sources like biofuel and nuclear. As a result of these constraints, consumers could experience a 20 percent increase in electricity costs by 2020.

Beyond these direct impacts, the ripple effect of this legislation will be enormous. Our economic competitors such as China (the world’s largest producer of CO2) and India are not committing to any specific reductions, so as the cost of producing goods increases here in the United States, we will begin to lose even more business to other nations. Developing nations in Africa and South America would soon enjoy the same advantage, and the United States could lose an estimated 2.5 million jobs, including tens of thousands here in Georgia.  

The Georgia Chamber of Commerce supports the development of an energy plan that takes into account both conservation of the environment and the availability of affordable energy for our homes and businesses. While these goals are not mutually exclusive, they may take more time to achieve than Congress is providing.

The rush to get this bill to the floor is a blatant example of placing political expediency ahead of long-term economic stability and the success of our people and our nation. Our elected leaders should develop solutions that take both into account, and we encourage all Georgians to contact their representatives in Congress and insist that they do the same.

George Israel is the president and CEO of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce.