Higher Taxes - The Real Cost of Going Green

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WASHINGTON - Democrats in Congress are cutting back their efforts to curb global warming in hopes they can get more support for an energy bill.

But opponents are still warning the bill could result in crippling energy taxes on American families.

Capitol Hill leaders who wanted to make big cuts in carbon emissions are announcing they are scaling back their goals to get the support of moderate Democrats from oil, coal and industrial states.

Goal: Cleaner Energy

One goal of the energy bill they are trying to get passed is to promote cleaner energy.

Some states are already moving on their own on that front.

New York just promised some $30 million in incentives to capture a new General Electric plant that will develop high-tech batteries for trains and industries.

"We think the markets for this ultimately will be huge," said GE Chairman Jeff Immelt. "We want to lead and we think we can lead from right here in upstate New York."

"And in addition, it will create 350 jobs right here in the capital region," said New York Gov. David Paterson.

Goal: New Jobs, Technology 

Jimmy Carter just appeared before a Senate panel to push President Obama and Congress to break the hold of foreign oil and go full-bore for clean energy and a green economy.

"For creating new jobs and new technology, very exciting new jobs," the former president said. "And also for removing ourselves from the constraint of foreigners who now control a major portion of the decisions made in foreign policy and endanger our security."

But the energy bill still contains a cap and trade scheme that would make polluters buy expensive permits for the right to pollute. The costs will likely just be passed on to consumers -- sort of an energy tax.

"The theory is, you raise the tax so high that people won't be able to afford to use as much electricity, won't be able to afford to fill their car as much, and they'll use less and somehow that'll mean fewer emissions," Americans for Prosperity's Phil Kerpen explained.

Cost to American Families: $700 to $2,200 Yearly 

But critics warn such a tax could help cripple an economic recovery, and cost American families anywhere from $700 to $2,200 more for energy a year.

Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform predicts the costs will be much higher.

"Three-thousand dollars per family," he said. "It will show up in higher energy costs, but it will be a tax on the people who produce the electricity for your house or who get oil and gas for your car and for your home."

The goal of cap and trade is to ultimately cut energy use. But critics doubt that will happen.

"In reality, for most people they can't choose whether they are going to have the lights on in their house," Kerpen said. "They can't choose whether they're going to drive to work, so most people are just going to pay more. I don't think we're going to see a big decline in use. So this really in my view amounts to sort of a feel-good symbolic measure that certain folks want to get a warm, green feeling from doing this," he continued. "But it has real economic pain and almost no environmental upside that I can see."

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By Paul Strand and John Jessup

By Paul Strand and John Jessup

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