Cap-and-trade’s impact on the midterms

With just a week to go until the US midterms, the narrative seems to have been set: the Republicans are going to do well because of anger at the Obama administration towards two things in particular: a lack of jobs and the healthcare bill.

But there may be another element at play which is feeding into this heady mix: the cap-and-trade bill.

Yesterday, the Journal published an interesting article about the way in which Democratic Congressman Rick Boucher’s support for the bill is losing him votes in his native Virginia. Apparently locals are angry that Boucher voted for a bill that they regard as anti-coal.

The Journal reports that Larry Sabato, of the University of Virginia’s Centre for Politics, says:

The cap-and-trade bill has been enormously unpopular in places like the 9th district because it appears—like it or not—to be anti-coal.

But the bizarre thing is that the bill is not particularly anti-coal, especially with its provisions for stimulating the use of CCS. The Pew Center studied the impact on the coal industry last year and found:

The ACES Act establishes a regulatory framework to enable investments in coal power plants coupled with CCS and provides significant financial incentives for demonstration and widespread deployment of CCS.

According to Ryan Lizza, who wrote an authoritative report on the passage of the cap-and-trade legislation:

The White House and Waxman spent the final days before the vote negotiating with members of the House representing two crucial interest groups: coal and agriculture. Despite cutting generous deals, they ended up with only limited support.

Even the coal industry itself seems to recognise the fact, and what’s more, has praised Boucher for his role in helping get the pro-coal elements into the bill. The Journal quotes a spokesman for the United Mine Workers of America as saying:

If it hadn’t been for Rick Boucher, the end of the coal industry would’ve been written on the wall.

From a British point of view, the most remarkable quote comes from Boucher himself, who insists:

“I’m the go-to guy for the coal industry.”

Without wanting to sound too pious, should a lawmaker really be proud of such a claim?

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