Appearing on General Electric’s conservative-skewing business network, CBNC, Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) argued that carbon dioxide, the primary greenhouse gas, is not a “real pollutant.” In an interview with right-wing economist Larry Kudlow on Thursday, Inhofe repeated lies about the cost of climate legislation. Kudlow, praising Inhofe for telling Americans about this “very scary story,” attacked the prospect of global warming regulation as a “backdoor energy tax” that “can drive stocks into the ground.” Inhofe claimed that President Obama wants to “intimidate Congress” into passing “$300 to $400 billion a year” in taxes, so that the American people will blame Congress instead of him:
The reason why I don’t think they’ll try to do that through regulation is because certainly this president, President Obama knows that once the American people find out that they’re going to pay about $2,000 a year in taxes for something that doesn’t do anything, there’s going to be an outrage. And they want to be able to say, “Oh, no, that was Congress that did it.” My feeling is they’re using this for intimidation purposes and they’re going to try to intimidate Congress to do this.
CNBC’s promotion of right-wing fantasies originating from polluter-funded think tanks and conservative bloggers is nothing new. Energy and media multinational General Electric is often portrayed as a climate-friendly corporation which influences American politics to the left, primarily because of the presence of Rachel Maddow, Ed Schultz, and Keith Olbermann on MSNBC’s afternoon programming. On Fox News, Glenn Beck rants that GE is going to get “all kinds of contracts from the government on green energy” because it is “in bed with Obama.” The Competitive Enterprise Institute’s Steve Milloy claims the new Kerry-Boxer clean-energy jobs act is larded with “payoffs to GE.” Bill O’Reilly claims GE “is also pushing for the proposed cap-and-trade program” and “using its power and the airwaves to influence politics” so that it can “reap billions of dollars if the Feds OK the carbon deal.”
Not only does GE attack climate action through its CNBC network, it also supports several national lobbying campaigns against clean-energy legislation, through its membership in the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (GE Energy), the American Petroleum Institute (GE Oil & Gas), and the National Association of Manufacturers (GE Enterprise Solutions). Unlike GE, companies such as Duke Energy have abandoned NAM and ACCCE for their retrograde position on climate change.
KUDLOW: Is the Obama administration at the Environmental Protection Agency moving to create a backdoor energy tax, for American businesses, far and wide? With us now is Oklahoma Republican senator James Inhofe, who is the ranking member on the environment committee. I think, Senator, you do regulate or authorize the EPA?
INHOFE: That’s true.
KUDLOW: All right, that’s what I thought. I’m reading and listening to the EPA Administrator, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal. We’re going to regulate the carbon emissions of, what, 14,000 — let me get this right, 14,000 coal-burning plants, refineries, industrial complexes. Do they have the authority to do so? And is this like a backdoor cap-and-trade bill?
INHOFE: Larry, we talked about this before, but now we progressed to the point where if there’s an endangerment finding, then yes. If it’s finalized, they say they’re going to regulate anything using 25,000 tons of CO2 a year. Now, the reason they’re approaching it that way is they know the Clean Air Act was set up for SOx and NOx, for real pollutants. The threshold there is 250 tons, not 25,000 tons. They know there will be regulations, there’ll be lawsuits and they’ll be forced to regulate everybody. You talk about 250 tons a year. Larry, that’s everybody. Every mom-and-pop shop, every school, every nursery. And that’s what their intention is to do.
KUDLOW: Senator, who’s authorized this? My understanding is this ain’t legal and that the 1990 Clean Air Act was never designed to regulate carbon emissions.
INHOFE: No, it wasn’t, but if they declare, as they’re going to do, that CO2 is a pollutant like SOx and NOx, then they say they can do it. I have a different feeling about this, Larry. I don’t think they really want to do it. I think they want to use this to intimidate Congress to pass something. You saw what was introduced as no longer Boxer-Kerry, it’s now Kerry-Boxer. They’re going to try that. It’s the same thing! If we go back as we talked before, all the way back to Kyoto or Mccain-Lieberman or Warner-Lieberman or the Sanders bill, it’s still going to cost the American people somewhere between $300 billion or $400 billion a year. That’s what they want to get to, and I don’t care how they try to masquerade it, they’re going to try to get there. The reason why I don’t think they’ll try to do that through regulation is because certainly this president, President Obama knows that once the American people find out that they’re going to pay about $2,000 a year in taxes for something that doesn’t do anything, there’s going to be an outrage. And they want to be able to say, “Oh, no, that was Congress that did it.” My feeling is they’re using this for intimidation purposes and they’re going to try to intimidate Congress to do this.
KUDLOW: I think this is the kind of thing that can drive stocks into the ground, particularly commodity, materials and industrial type stocks. This may be an unheralded story in today’s stock market correction. It was front page in the New York Times. Big article in the Wall Street Journal, and so forth. If I quote you, $300 billion a year, $2,000 increase per family, is that what you’re talking with respect to the backdoor tax idea.
INHOFE: If you remember when the Marxy, uh, Markey-Waxman bill passed, they tried to say it was only a postage stamp a day — they were suppressing information they had from the U.S. Treasury department saying no, it’s going to cost $1,761 per family per year. Now that’s a conservative figure. But nonetheless, every analysis we’ve seen, MIT, the Whorten School, the Charles River Associates — it’s always between 300 and 400 billion dollars a year. But the thing about it is, Larry, something that’s happened since our last conversation. I had the administrator before us in our committee and I asked if we were to make this happen and start regulating in accordance to the Waxy, uh Waxman-Markey bill, how much would it reduce emissions? She said none. And the reason is obvious. We can’t do this in a vacuum. If only America does it, that will chase away our manufacturing jobs to China, other places where they have no emission restrictions. So it would have the effect of increasing, not decreasing CO2 emissions.
KUDLOW: I appreciate that point, but the EPA could fine these companies. It’s like a tax. We don’t know anything about this. There aren’t going to be any trading warrants. It’s not like a carbon tax that might be used to lower the income tax on the other side. In other words, are they just going to go off on their own to do this?
INHOFE: Larry, the honest way to do this, if they want to do this, is to just go ahead and have a carbon tax. The reason they don’t do it is because they don’t want people to know what it is. So, cap and trade, they can say, “We’re going to give credits to our favorite people, it’s not going to affect you,” but it will.
KUDLOW: If you had to guess, Senator, last word, will the EPA follow through? I think Ms. Jackson is talking about enforcing it 2011. It’s over a year. Do you think we’re going to see this?
INHOFE: I don’t think we’re going to see this. It’s really Carol Browner, the czar. I don’t think they want to be responsible to have to tell the people it’s a big tax increase. They want Congress to do it and that’s the strategy in my opinion.
KUDLOW: All right Sen. Inhofe, you’re very kind to come up with that update, because I think this is a pretty scary story for the American economy and other things. Thank you very much, sir.
INHOFE: You bet.