Gingrich's eloquent solo on cap-and-trade bill's shortcomings

He was not originally scheduled to testify. But former House Speaker Newt Gingrich described serious problems in a cap-and-trade proposal before the Energy and Commerce Committee.

He was not originally scheduled to testify. Then the US House Energy and Commerce Committee announced that former Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) would follow former Vice President Al Gore (D) and former US Sen. John W. Warner (R-Va.) during the third full day of hearings Apr. 24 on proposed climate change legislation.

A Republican committee source told me that negotiations began more than a week earlier to bring more balance to the hearings led by committee chairman Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.) and Edward J. Markey (D-Mass), who chairs the committee's Energy and Environment Subcommittee.

"It was especially obvious with the Gore-Warner panel. So the majority agreed to invite Gingrich," she told me on Apr. 27. The source didn't say it, but the majority made the former speaker a solo witness instead of having him testify with Gore and Warner.

Gingrich delivered. He did more than simply reiterate his call to develop more domestic energy resources. He said that the proposal before the committee would not improve national security and address economic decline, but simply increase the power of government.

"Have we learned nothing during the past six months? Consider: The US government failed to regulate Wall Street correctly, and the result has been trillions of dollars of taxpayer money to clean up the mess that politicians and bureaucrats created," he said.

Taxpayers foot the bill

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were supposed to manage mortgages, yet the US housing market collapsed in 2008, Gingrich continued. Washington politicians responded by making US taxpayers foot the bill to correct the government-backed home loan providers' mistakes, he said.

"Now the bill before you would create a multi-billion dollar artificial market for carbon, regulated and managed by the US government, paid for by taxing every American who uses energy," Gingrich told committee members.

"With $2 trillion up for grabs, the environmental pieties begin to be a little difficult to take seriously. Lobbyists have not been hired for good citizenship and idealism. Lobbyists have been hired to ensure their clients get rich off this new government-managed flow of cash," he observed.

The Waxman-Markey draft got a few things right, he conceded. It restricts the US Environmental Protection Agency from regulating carbon, which Gingrich called "a power grab of staggering proportions." It also supports technologies to use more coal in ways less damaging to the environment. And it promotes development of a smart electrical grid to prevent massive power blackouts while help to reduce peak loads.

Punishments, not incentives

But the bill provides more carbon reduction punishments than incentives, he continued. "Innovation is necessary to cut carbon, not regulation. But the policies to spur innovation and utilize the creativity of America's scientists and engineers are not in this bill. The policies needed to expand all of America's energy resources, from oil to natural gas to the use of coal; to nuclear; to renewables such as ethanol, solar, and wind; to new breakthroughs such as hydrogen, are not in this bill. The policies necessary to achieve energy independence are not in this bill," Gingrich said.

"Yet we are told that this bill will harness the imagination of America and lead to breakthroughs in new technologies. We are told that we will have more energy resources at our disposal. We are told that we will become energy independent. Here, two plus two does not equal four; this is simply an intellectually dishonest bill. It promises what it cannot deliver and then punishes what currently exists. It promises what it cannot deliver and then punishes what currently exists," he declared.

That same day, committee Republicans asserted House rules to request an additional hearing so the minority could call more witnesses. A few from groups such as the Heritage Foundation had testified already. Ranking Minority Member Joe Barton (R-Tex.) said that 14 Republicans testified with 54 Democrats during the week.

The GOP committee source said that was a modest improvement. Originally, only seven Republicans were scheduled, she told me.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com

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