Owen: Cap and traded

Monday, August 9, 2010 at 1:04am
Justin Owen

Over the past year, President Obama has sought to take on yet another sector of the economy: energy. The overreaching goal of what has become known as cap-and-trade legislation is to place a price on carbon, making it easier for government to tax and regulate emissions.

Facing a tough election cycle and growing public opposition to more regulation and taxation, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid recently abandoned the grand energy scheme in favor of a less comprehensive bill. Although cap-and-trade has lost its vigor, the watered-down plan poses its own threats.

Reid’s new bill increases the oil spill liability faced by companies from $75 million to $10 billion and imposes new safety requirements on oil rigs. It also provides homeowners with a financial “incentive” to adorn their homes with energy efficient products.

Lifting the economic cap on oil spill liability is inherently free market, though in this case it amounts to nothing more than shallow political retaliation. Right now, companies like BP are only on the hook for $75 million regardless of the damage they cause, leaving taxpayers to foot the rest of the bill in catastrophic situations. If BP and other companies cause severe economic damage, taxpayers should not be forced to bail them out. That said, the measure will likely force out smaller oil companies unable to afford insurance to cover their vastly expanded liability. Some experts estimate this could lead to 289,000 lost jobs over the next five years.

The new drilling regulations will undoubtedly drive up oil prices by entangling companies in unnecessary red tape. It could also propel oil companies to relocate their rigs elsewhere around the world, making the U.S. even more dependent on foreign oil.

Offering homeowners incentives to buy energy efficient products resembles the recently expired first-time homebuyer tax credit. To recover from a housing bubble prompted by lenders giving loans to people who had no business buying homes, the government spent billions of dollars encouraging home ownership by people, many of whom still had no business buying homes.

Government incentives alter consumer demand, almost always to those consumers’ detriment. They also favor certain manufacturers over others, inhibiting competition, the cornerstone of any free market.

Despite the new scaled-back approach, cap-and-trade might not be gone for good. The Environmental Protection Agency has asserted its authority to regulate carbon emissions even without official congressional action.

The new plan also doesn’t mean that Reid & Co. have forever abandoned more comprehensive energy legislation. When Democrats lose their unchecked command of Congress in November (they’re likely to lose the House and will almost certainly fail to retain enough Senate seats to overcome a filibuster), they will be determined to spend the waning days of the session ramming through legislation.

Many predict that Democrats will reserve this lame duck session for a full-scale assault on the energy industry. Between Democrats who lived to fight another day and those who were just handed the pink slip, congressional leaders may be able to muster the votes they currently lack to pass cap-and-trade before the new Congress takes over.

Nonetheless, cap-and-trade’s election-induced coma is at least a temporary victory for those interested in less government. It’s not, as some progressives shriek, a sign that big business has flexed its muscle. Recall that the very target of Reid’s new bill — BP — supported cap-and-trade, as did other energy companies. Of course, their incentive was not to “be green,” but rather to hamstring their chief rival, the coal industry, as well as to benefit from massive government subsidies.

If anything, the fact that cap-and-trade has been placed on life support is a sign that collusion between big business and big government doesn’t always prevail over the will of the American people.


Filed under: City Voices
Tagged: Justin Owen

173 Comments on this post:

By: govskeptic on 8/9/10 at 5:28

The US has spent millions and millions on Yucca Mountain in Nevada
for storage of Nuclear waste. Why this is not yet a reality tells the
story on this country's inability to get anything done on the energy
policy. That project had wide consensus between all parties when
it was started, but has since become nothing but a political football
for all who wanted to participate!

By: Loner on 8/9/10 at 6:14


Justin Owen is the Acting Executive Director at the Tennessee Center for Policy Research, a right-wing think tank. The Editors of the NCP should identify professional zealots as such when they publish their propaganda pieces.

Although he is a lawyer, Mr. Owen seems to be enamored of the idea that the government that governs least, governs best. I disagree with that flawed premise.

As human history illustrates, if left to their own devices, human beings are naturally selfish, naturally xenophobic and capable of unabashed inhumanity towards their fellow men.

To humanely preserve law and order, a representative, secular and democratic system of governance seems to work best Effective governance creates an environment conducive to commerce and technological development, while protecting the most vulnerable members of a given society.

Mr. Owen seems to prefer a more anarchistic society; a faith-based society where We the People are forced to trust our business and political leaders to naturally do the right thing. This educated think-tank guru may be a smart fellow, but he is woefully naive.

By: Loner on 8/9/10 at 6:22

Here's a link to Mr. Owen's resume, as posted on the TCPR site:


By: budlight on 8/9/10 at 6:37

Some experts estimate this could lead to 289,000 lost jobs over the next five years.

Well, that's OK; they can go get jobs on the "Obama payroll". DUH!

Justin Owen is the Acting Executive Director at the Tennessee Center for Policy Research, a right-wing think tank.

Well, Loner, "somebody's" got to be thinking. All the obama leftists do is rush ahead and do, do, do without any forethought or planning. oH, that's right, he's planned his type of presidency all along. Get as many people hungry and jobless in America as he can, while his spend thrift wife takes 8 vacations in 9 months OR LESS and normal hard working Americans get to do STAYcations.

By: Captain Nemo on 8/9/10 at 6:43

Good morning Nashville

Las Vegas

I agree Lone

By: Captain Nemo on 8/9/10 at 6:44

Someone has to think because trolls can’t.

By: Loner on 8/9/10 at 6:58

Good morning, Nemo and litebeer.

Last week, Limbaugh lashed out against the First Lady, now litebeer regurgitates the angst. Yeah, a black family in the Whitehouse is sticking in their craw....they can't get it down...they're choking on it. They want regime change now.

I fear for the safety of our First Family, super-demagogues are working up the hate, by way of the right-wing-owned mass media, on a 24/7 basis. Sooner or later, this kind of character assassination and hate-mongering will take its toll...I've seen it happen before, kids. I pray that I'm wrong on this.

By: Kosh III on 8/9/10 at 7:15

"It also provides homeowners with a financial “incentive” to adorn their homes with energy efficient products."
"Adorn" as if energy efficent features are decorative like a photo or vase. Just one of the ways the right uses propaganda.

" encouraging home ownership by people, many of whom still had no business buying homes"

More propaganda. The vast majority of people who took advantage of incentives to buy did so because it allowed them to buy without a downpayment.
FACT is that they could afford the home, most paid more in rent than in mortgage but the downpayment was the obstacle.
BUT when the BUSH RECESSION made their jobs disappear, then of course they couldn't afford it any longer. Unless they wanted to follow their job to Vietnam and make 5 dollars a day.

By: Loner on 8/9/10 at 7:42

Great rebuttal points, Kosh. Of course, the righties blame the specter of a potential Obama Presidency for frightening the market into a global recession. Although the crash occurred before the 2008 elections, the Bush loyalists insist that the meltdown was Mr. Obama's fault, not the Bush-Cheney Administration's fault, in any way.

I tried to post a further rebuttal of Owen's argument, but the text was "wiped" from the window by an unsolicited page refresh, before I hit the submit button....very strange. Is Clint Brewer back?

By: bfra on 8/9/10 at 7:42

By: Captain Nemo on 8/9/10 at 7:44
Someone has to think because trolls can’t.
Good mornin' Nemo
First: Beautiful picture!

Second: Troll not only can't think, it writes some of the longest drawn out dribbling nonsense.

By: AmyLiorate on 8/9/10 at 7:45

Loner it looks like Owens has shown a little link to support your D.I.E. theory. The E. part we all know is Energy.

I must ask one question of Mr. Reid and his cohorts who are so-so-tough on those evil greedy companies...
What is the cost of the New Horizon oil spill clean up and plug?

Will $10 Billion really cover the next one should we be so unfortunate again?

Or is $10B just a bigger meaner number than 75M so Reid looks like he really stuck it to the big guys during his election cycle.

Why not just remove the limit all together? Put in place legislation that will immediately freeze the assets of any company involved with such a catastrophe until the mess has been remediated? That would seem to be the most effective means of making sure things get cleaned up!

They do have the majority right now, why didn't they go for the gusto?

By: Blanketnazi2 on 8/9/10 at 7:54

good morning.

By: Loner on 8/9/10 at 7:56

Justin Owen wants a "free marketplace".

What do the righties mean by "free"? I suppose that they mean free to exploit, cheat and rip-off consumers and free to bribe lawmakers into submission.

Freedom from taxation is a right-wing pipe dream - civilization and taxation go hand in hand. 'twas ever thus.

Sorry Justin, with all due respect, I'd rather pay taxes in a secular democracy (democratic republic), than pay a tithe in a theocracy or pay tribute to a warlord.

BTW, folks, I invited the pros at the TCPR think-tank to join in this conversation....I contacted them through their website's "contact us" feature. Maybe the "heavy hitters" will leave a comment or two.

By: Kosh III on 8/9/10 at 8:03

Who are these "small" oil companies?
That's a red herring objection IMHO put out there by shills for the oil company like Sen. Murkowski or the BP lackey who apologized for us expecting BP to clean up it's mess.

We have seen "free" markets before. It led to monopolies and abundant abuses. Just look at the US from the end of the civil war until WWI. If competition is so great, why did TR have to break up so many monopolies? Why did we need the FDA and other safety regulators?

Like Loner said: free to pillage and plunder just like the Bushcovites did.

By: Loner on 8/9/10 at 8:03

I agree, Amy, why place an arbitrary limit on liability when dealing with issues of this magnitude?

Amy are you claiming that Owen is aware of the DIE consortium? I would bet that he and his think-tank associates support the "special relationship" and the Defense industry; do you have evidence to the contrary?

Good morning, BN.

By: Loner on 8/9/10 at 8:07

It sure looks and smells like a very red herring, Kosh.

By: BenDover on 8/9/10 at 8:08

g' morning all.

By: Loner on 8/9/10 at 8:14

Mom & Pop Oil-drilling operations would be driven out of business? Hey, if the drilling company is working on a shoestring budget and they trip up, whose going to tie the shoes?

I guess that the TCPR would have the general public pick up the tab for the clean-up. And they claim to be "bipartisan" on their homepage.....these guys are a joke, yes?

By: Loner on 8/9/10 at 8:16

Speaking of Bush loyalists....mornin', Ben.

By: Tull on 8/9/10 at 8:17

" Yeah, a black family in the Whitehouse is sticking in their craw"
It couldn't be that this administration is DOING A TERRIBLE JOB!
Criticize the president and you must be racist, when that's the response of the democracts even they have lost faith in the president.

By: Kosh III on 8/9/10 at 8:22

Yeah it is just sheer coincidence that McCain did better than Bush in votes in most of the former treasonous states like Tennessee.

By: BenDover on 8/9/10 at 8:22

Wow... the libs have awaken, vehement, vicious, virulent and vivacious this morning. I doubt I have the energy to retort. What's up with this phoenix of phonic pablum today?

By: Blanketnazi2 on 8/9/10 at 8:25

Tull, that doesn't explain the entire GOP but it is accurate regarding a portion of it.

By: BenDover on 8/9/10 at 8:28

Was there some call to arms I missed? Did Obama, in his weekly bloviation, make another call to his minions to further subdue the country in the Chicago Way?

By: BenDover on 8/9/10 at 8:30

It's a small minority, bn. One that exists on both sides of the asile and in my experience with labor leaning democrat types to a greater degree.

By: Blanketnazi2 on 8/9/10 at 8:32

i don't know about that, Ben. the growth of white supremacists groups have grown greatly in number since Obama was elected and i seriously doubt they are democrats.

By: gdiafante on 8/9/10 at 8:35

Each side has their extremists, though I can hardly remember such hatred and anti-government rhetoric from the Right. I thought the partisan nonsense was bad during Clinton and Bush, but currently it's utterly ridiculous.

By: Loner on 8/9/10 at 8:36

Tull, thank you for the response.

Considering all that Mr. Obama faced when he took the Oath of office, he has done fairly well, IMO. The economic recovery has been slow, that is true; but the president's men and women have patched the leak(s) and the ship-o-state is now off the rocks, where Bush and Cheney had left it. If we all man the bilge pumps and have a little faith, the ship may stay afloat, while Obama's team works on the engines.

I prefer having Mr. Obama as our skipper, as opposed to accident-prone John McCain or glamorous Sarah Palin at the helm and mindlessly barking scripted orders.

Obama is not perfect and he has disappointed many Democrats, but to exclaim that, he and his Administration are "DOING A TERRIBLE JOB!" is both inaccurate and unfair.

By: Kosh III on 8/9/10 at 8:41

It was Reagan who really pushed the notion that government was bad, while at the same time using government to pillage and plunder: Somoza, S&L, Iran-Contra, massive deficits, astrolger-advisers etc
It's been downhill ever since, with only a brief pause into solvency under Clinton although he certainly contined the rightist push to corporatism, aka fascism.

By: gdiafante on 8/9/10 at 8:45

Our country would be better off if we were not sidetracked by the obsessive need to blame someone.

By: AmyLiorate on 8/9/10 at 8:45

Tull? Not "Jethro Tull" is it?

Your wise men don't know how it feels
To be thick as a brick.
-- Jethro Tull, "Thick As A Brick"

That might sum up things in D.C.

Loner, I don't think Owens is as much of a righty as you may think. Though I don't know him personally I am loosely acquainted with his predecessor/founder Drew Johnson.

The TCPR hasn't been around long enough to prove impartiality in a large way (if you base things on the governor's party) but methinks they go for hitting where the MOST waste is. Regardless of party. Time will tell more and I hope Owens chimes in here.

By: Loner on 8/9/10 at 8:48

Yes, Doctor Dover, an all-points-bulletin recently went out across the fruited plain, alerting all Commies, Tree-huggers, Terrorist-Sympathizers, Socialists, Feminazis, Anti-Semites, Marijuana -Smokers, GLBT's, Gun-control Zealots, Peaceniks, Atheists, Pagans and Aging Hippies. The Misfit's Call-to-Arms has been very effective...as you can see.

Apparently, you did not get the memo, Ben.

By: gdiafante on 8/9/10 at 8:53

Ben ignored the memo, he was playing with his new thesaurus.

By: BenDover on 8/9/10 at 8:55

As with poor people, bn; I suggest that your opinion of racists is shaped more by what you've been taught than by what you've experienced. I've been very poor; know and support many poor people... and I know racists in their ranks who find it easier to blame their plight on ‘wet backs’ and ‘n*ggers’ than to take responsibility for their own failures. These are solid democrat labor votes who seemed to break half and half for/against Obama. Many holding their nose to vote for Obama policy rather than the man in much the same way I held my nose to vote for McCain.

gd... you're seeing what you expect to see. Obama could not have carried the majorities he did without substantial white majority votes. He was an unknown quantity during the election though; painted as a moderate. Since then he's revealed himself to the masses as a hard left radical and that agenda... unchecked by a hard left led congress and senate... doesn't sit well with the white majorities that elected him.

By: Blanketnazi2 on 8/9/10 at 8:55

i thought he was in the forest with the stones again.

By: BenDover on 8/9/10 at 8:56

gd, I though you, if anyone, would appreciate the alliteration.

By: Blanketnazi2 on 8/9/10 at 8:58

what i've been taught vs. what i experienced? Ben, how would you know what i have experienced? cut the condescending crap. i ate plenty of government cheese when i was a kid and neither of my parents graduated high school. i'm most certainly not a latte liberal.

By: Blanketnazi2 on 8/9/10 at 8:59

is it not a fact that the ranks of our homeland terrorists have grown since Obama has been elected? that's not an opinion, it is a fact. go look it up.

By: BenDover on 8/9/10 at 8:59

Loner... it seems they leaver the anarchists off the mailing list. We seem to find favor with no one these days.

By: Funditto on 8/9/10 at 9:00

OMG. I read yesterday that when Obama lets the Bush tax cut for the rich expire, we'll have to pay a WHOPPING 3% MORE next year. I don't know how we'll eat. We're all doomed!

By: BenDover on 8/9/10 at 9:01

So, in your experience, bn; the people were all poor through no fault of their own and never blamed their failures on others?

By: house_of_pain on 8/9/10 at 9:03

Is that a thesaurus in your pocket, or are you merely enthused by my presence?

By: Funditto on 8/9/10 at 9:04

the poor people I know are to busy worrying about finding work, keeping their home than who's to blame. You can't lump all poor people into one giant group.

Ben, you need to read Ben Franklin's story.

By: BenDover on 8/9/10 at 9:04

Much of Obama's administration can be characterized as, "I see racist people".

By: Loner on 8/9/10 at 9:04

Perhaps, Amy, but the TCPR site appears to be well-right of center and far from bipartisan. For example, where is their outrage over two pre-emptive, elective and expensive wars, twin conflicts served up as a feast for the War Lobby, courtesy of Bush-Cheney?

It's the guns and butter thing, TCPR looks for waste in the butter-making process, while ignoring a monumental rip-off by the War Lobby. That's definitely a right-wing think-tank....no doubt about it.

By: BenDover on 8/9/10 at 9:07

Clint Brewer works for TCPR now, I believe.

By: gdiafante on 8/9/10 at 9:07

I didn't say I didn't appreciate it...

Here's a question Ben, do you think the unemployment problem is structural? If so, what do you think a GOP led Congress (likely) should do?

By: BenDover on 8/9/10 at 9:12

I think they should pass immigration reform and send signals that the last 18 months of 'social justice' will be contained. Unemployment has been based on uncertainty about how far liberal fiscal policy will go, uncertainty about how much more intrusive regulatory authority will be, certainty (now) about the imact of the things they have been able to pass; and uncertainty about the populist protectionist nature of immigration policy with respect to unskilled and semi-skilled labor in this country.

By: Tull on 8/9/10 at 9:13

"Considering all that Mr. Obama faced when he took the Oath of office, he has done fairly well, IMO.
Unemployment is way up since he took office, the deficit has TRIPLED, transparent administration is a joke, ramming through legislation that is extremely unpopular.
MANY broken promise like: sunlight before signing, capital gains tax elimination, new American jobs tax credit, hiatus on 401(k) penalties, no jobs for lobbyists, earmark reform, bring troops home in 16 months.
Come on even you can't say with a straight face that he has "done fairly well".

By: Blanketnazi2 on 8/9/10 at 9:14

Ben, you're putting words in my mouth. and i don't really see the point you're trying to make.