June 20, 2010 | Commentary on Energy and Environment

Cleaning up an Oil Spill is No Reason to Wreck the Economy

The horrific images from the Gulf of Mexico are enough to make anyone angry. For weeks, the oil spill has enraged rescue crews, environmentalists, government officials and even every day citizens who’ve tried -- and failed -- to contain the spill and lay out an effective plan to deal with what’s becoming the worst ecological disaster in our country’s history.

Despite some disagreement on how best to move forward, it seems like everyone can agree that the most important thing we can do is stop the oil leak. Perhaps that’s what makes President Obama’s recent call to pass a comprehensive energy bill so puzzling. Instead of dealing with the leak, the president pressed Congress to pass an energy bill that would supposedly steer us on a path towards a green economy.

Obama and his advisors seem eager to seize on the Gulf of Mexico disaster to curry support for an otherwise moribund bill. For months, liberals in Congress have been trying to approve an energy bill with cap–and-trade provisions, but have faced stiff opposition because of the measure’s expensive price tag.

The bill would encourage alternative energy sources by raising taxes and increasing energy costs for all Americans. Cap-and-trade is premised on the idea that businesses will be able to sell and buy credits with other businesses to emit pollutants. Although this might sound like a good idea, the truth is that it’s egregiously expensive. It would be a huge gamble at a high cost. And at a time of mounting deficits, moving forward with cap-and-trade is hugely irresponsible.

The president wants to promote the American Power Act, sponsored by Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), which aims to reduce levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Unfortunately, this bill would result in drastic job losses at a time when we are desperately trying to reduce our nation’s 10 percent unemployment rate. That rate is closer to 13 percent for the Hispanic community, by the way.

In fact, according to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, which studied the bill, “job losses in the industries that shrink would lower employment more than job gains in other industries would increase employment, thereby raising the overall unemployment rate.”

Worse yet, there’s no guarantee that this scheme would actually improve our environment. In fact, according to an analysis by climatologist Paul C. Knappenberger, the global temperature reduction from the American Power Act would be marginal, at best.

As we move forward, our country desperately needs bold leadership to deal with the massive cleanup effort in the Gulf of Mexico. Additionally, a careful review of why this spill occurred is necessary in order to prevent another oil spill.

What we don’t need is political jockeying to exploit a disaster and advance a political agenda that would only result in job losses and higher taxes.                          

Israel Ortega is a Senior Media Services Associate at The Heritage Foundation.

About the Author

Israel Ortega Contributor, The Foundry

First appeared in Diario de La Prensa