Waxman-Markey Climate Bill: A Trojan Horse For Protectionism

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Hey Paul Krugman, do you still think that opponents of Waxman-Markey are traitors?

Turns out, buried in those more than 1000+ pages was an anti-free trade measure inserted late on Thursday night.

NYT: The House bill contains a provision, inserted in the middle of the night before the vote Friday, that requires the president, starting in 2020, to impose a “border adjustment” — or tariff — on certain goods from countries that do not act to limit their global warming emissions. The president can waive the tariffs only if he receives explicit permission from Congress.

The provision was added to secure the votes of Rust Belt lawmakers who were wavering on the bill because of fears of job losses in heavy industry.

Tyler Cowen, who is no global warming denialist, is now likening Waxman-Markey to Smoot-Hawley, the infamous anti trade bill:

The bottom line is that Waxman-Markey, as it currently stands, would in fact be counterproductive, once the international scale of the problem is taken into account.  That we learn about this provision only now is startling enough.

I write this all as someone who a) favours a much higher price for fossil fuels, b) thinks that if micro-nutrients are a good idea they are not an alternative to addressing climate change; we could do both with positive expected long-run return, c) thinks that many people on the “Right” oppose W-M mostly because its passage would raise the status of environmentalists and others on the “Left” (but they will not admit as much), and d) thinks that our collective American incompetence in limiting emissions does not eliminate our moral obligation to address the problem.

There’s a fair chance that this provision could get stripped out in the Senate, but then, there will need to be some concession to these rust-belt, industrial states. Liberal Missouri Senator Clair McCaskill has already signalled her opposition to the bill for just this reason — that it will impact her state disproportionately. So if it’s not an anti-trade measure, it’s gotta be something.

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