Beware of Stealth Energy Tax, Conservative Group Warns

By Susan Jones | July 7, 2008 | 8:21 PM EDT

( - A conservative think tank says Sens. Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) are backing an energy bill that includes a de facto energy tax on the American public.

The bill, the Climate Stewardship Act of 2003 (S.139), bears a troubling resemblance to the Kyoto Protocol, said the National Center for Public Policy Research.

According to the National Center, the bill would require the commercial, industrial, transportation and electric power sectors in the United States to reduce their emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases to 2000 levels by 2010; and to 1990 levels by 2016. That would sharply raise energy prices, critics warn

The National Center for Public Policy Research noted that in1997, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed a resolution agreeing not to sign international treaties designed to combat so-called global warming. The senators - including McCain and Lieberman - agreed that such treaties would harm the U.S. economy while exempting developing nations from emissions reductions.

Just as the Kyoto Protocol would have done, the McCain-Lieberman bill will lead to energy scarcity and higher prices, said the National Center for Public Policy Research.

The group said the Climate Stewardship Act will harm all sectors of the American economy and place a greater financial burden on people who can least afford it.

"Fossil fuels -- coal, oil and natural gas - account for 70 percent of America's electricity and 84 percent of all the nation's energy needs," said Bonner Cohen, a senior fellow at The National Center for Public Policy Research, in a recent analysis.

"Any congressional action that would jeopardize Americans' access to affordable energy will have devastating consequences for society as a whole, and for the poor in particular," Cohen concluded.

Even groups who support the legislation admit it will raise prices. The group Environmental Defense estimates the cost at $10 per household in 2010 - a "low cost," it says.

"The bi-partisan McCain-Lieberman Climate Stewardship Act is a measured and affordable approach to the global warming problem," Environmental Defense said in a statement on its website.

According to Environmental Defense President Fred Krupp, "The vote on the Climate Stewardship Act will be the litmus test for Senators on global warming...For too long our leaders have denied any responsibility to find solutions," he said, adding, "all Americans have a right to know where their Senators stand on the issue."

According to Environmental Defense, America is the number one source of the pollution contributing to global warming.

"For too long our leaders have denied any responsibility to find solutions," Krupp said. He called the Climate Stewardship Act "a modest first step in absolutely the right direction."

But critics say any legislation forcing a big hike in energy prices is exactly the wrong way to go, because it would disrupt the economic recovery.

Environmental Defense is an advocate of "sustainable development," a phrase generally used to describe earth-friendly projects that impose restrictions on how land may be developed and who may use it.