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How Cap and Trade Plans to Cripple Our Economy

If you can’t understand conceptually why a Cap and Trade system is such a bad deal, how about a concrete example?

The European Union is a signatory of the Kyoto Protocols and have been dealing with a Carbon Cap and Trade system for several years. This article in today’s Wall Street Journal shows how the potential profit from the sale of carbon credits directly led to the loss of 1,700 jobs in a British steel plant.

Usually, we worry about the unintended consequences of new, far-reaching regulation. As the article makes clear, however, crippling the economies of the Western Democracies for the benefit of the “developing world” (read: China and India) is precisely the intent of Cap and Trade.

… Corus, Europe’s second-largest steel producer, is shuttering a giant U.K. steelmaking plant at Redcar, cutting 1,700 jobs. Corus blames the recession that has cut steel demand and says the British government hasn’t done enough to help it.

Whatever the truth of that, there’s little doubt that cap and trade made the closure much easier. The decline in steel production means European steelmakers have surplus carbon allowances. According to Carbon Market Data, a European research firm, in 2008 Corus had the second largest surplus of EU carbon allowances—7.5 million.

… By closing Redcar’s annual capacity of three million tons of steel, Corus will produce six million fewer tons of CO2. That means more carbon allowances, which could translate into about $300 million a year if credits hit $50. Corus is essentially being paid to lay off British workers. …

Corus was bought in 2007 by Tata, India’s largest steel company. The Indian steel industry is set to more than double production to some 124 million tons a year by 2011-2012. Were Corus to move production to a “clean” Indian factory, it could receive hundreds of millions of dollars annually from the Clean Development Fund. The kicker is that none of this results in fewer carbon emissions. A Corus plant in India might be more efficient by Indian standards, but it will be no more efficient than Redcar. …

To summarize: Cap and trade is a scheme that would impose heavy carbon taxes and allowances on U.S. industries, which would then have an incentive to move overseas themselves, or to sell those allowances to overseas companies that could use them to become more competitive against U.S. companies. Like the 1,700 Brits at Redcar, American workers would be the big losers.

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