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Boxer: Like it or not, carbon regulation is coming

(Cross-posted at The Swamp)

WASHINGTON -- Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) offered a stark message today to her colleagues who want to delay or kill major reductions in U.S. greenhouse gas emissions: You've already lost.

Boxer chairs the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, and she's drafting the Senate version of a so-called "cap-and-trade" bill that would limit the emissions scientists blame for climate change.

In what she dubbed a "reality check on global warming," Boxer said a growing series of regional emissions caps -- and the high likelihood that the Obama administration will soon take the first steps toward regulating greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act -- suggest that Congress' only choices on emissions limits are to set them itself, or to watch others do it.

“I am here today to say that the days of inaction on climate change have ended," Boxer said. “The question is, will Congress continue to play a small part or a central role?”

The comments rebuked Boxer's Republican counterpart on the committee, Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma, a global warming skeptic who lambasted the cap-and-trade proposal on the Senate floor this week, calling it all costs and no benefits for American taxpayers.

"If it is time for anything," he said, "it is time for us to get realistic about these policies, and focus on what is achievable, both globally and domestically, to help bring down energy costs to consumers and make us more energy-secure so the American public doesn’t get yet another raw deal."

-- Jim Tankersley

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While I support carbon offsets, I believe there are some industries that may need to be governed through an international accord. Last year's Warner Lieberman bill would have heavily penalized the aviation industry which has been making great strides in reducing its environmental impact and rewarded the cement industry which has done little to become more environmentally friendly.

As a frequent traveler, who has bought carbon offsets in the past, I try to reduce my carbon footprint both at home and while traveling. The trouble if both America levies a carbon tax and Europe levies its own carbon tax is that an airline could conceivably end up paying double taxes on a flight from New York to London. Since most Europeans have long favored a carbon tax, it seems like our government should work to create an international carbon tax for airlines and perhaps international cruise lines as well. To date, I don't think the cruise lines have been quite as proactive as airlines in attempting to reduce their environmental impact since ports and marine environments have been much more lightly regulated than air quality has -- and our coral reefs and marine life have suffered.

Frankly, one of the first steps Congress should take before instituting carbon offsets would be to take public transportation or carpool to their Congressional offices at least once a week. Prior to taking a sustainable living course, riding the bus never occurred to me. I now ride the bus to work and walk home (about 2 miles). Congress should begin leading on the issue of the environment by "greening" up its act before enacting legislation.

Don't get me wrong. I favor a carbon offset system. I just don't want to see businesses that have been proactive in their approach to the environment penalized while major polluters get a tax break. Aviation has had greater incentive to reduce its impact b/c the less fuel it burns, the less pain it feels at the pump. If Detroit had ever felt consumer's pain at the pump, they wouldn't be at risk for bankruptcy. Instead they've been supportive of the petroleum industry because once we drive off a dealer's lot, we're the ones stuck with the cost of filling up. What puzzles me is why didn't TEXACO, EXXON, SHELL etc. didn't bail out Detroit rather than the taxpayers. After all they made money on fuel last summer while taxpayers suffered.


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