Republican radio address
For the weekend of March 7-8, 2009

Greetings, this is John Robinson, state representative from Raymond.

The Legislature is moving into full swing, with big issues like the budget and bonds gradually moving to center stage and 1,600 bills making their way through committees. One of the most popular categories for bills this year is energy – which is not surprising, considering the serious energy problems Maine faces now and in the future.

Let me first touch on one of those bills, and then say a few words about the so-called carbon tax coming at us from Washington. As a state legislator, I don’t often comment about federal policy, but this change will affect every Maine citizen and every Maine business – and not for the better. As a matter of fact, it could be devastating.

Here in Augusta, there is a Democratic proposal to tax home heating oil. Maine already applies a sales tax to heating oil for businesses. That’s bad enough, but Senator Joe Perry thinks homeowners should get hit with the tax, too. Obviously, Republicans will reject this bill outright. In this economy, any kind of tax increase would deepen our plight, but a sales tax on heating oil is unthinkable. How could the Democrats not realize this? Eighty percent of Mainers rely on oil to heat their homes. In fact, our state is more dependent on heating oil than any other. At a time when thousands of Mainers are out of work, and thousands more fear for their jobs, the idea of raising taxes on this basic necessity deserves a quick trip to the legislative dumpster.

But the Perry proposal is small potatoes compared to the colossal new tax coming at us from the Obama administration and the Democrat-controlled Congress. Mr. Obama’s budget for next year makes it clear that he is gearing up for a fundamental transformation of America’s energy system. You will hear the term “cap-and-trade” a lot in the future, but all you really need to know is that your electricity rates will shoot up dramatically due to the carbon tax.

But don’t take my word for it. Listen to the words of the president himself, spoken during his campaign: “Under my plan of a cap-and-trade system, electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket. I’m capping greenhouse gases, coal powered plants, natural gas, you name it.” He admits that the plan will cost a lot of money, and that power plants would pass on that cost to consumers. Analysts expect electricity rates to jump at least 60 percent and possibly a lot more. This could be fatal for many companies in Maine, where electricity rates are already among the highest in the nation.

According to the Obama budget, the feds will rake in $646 billion in carbon taxes over the next 10 years. This represents one of the biggest tax increases in American history, and the effects will ripple through the entire energy chain and ultimately the entire economy. And apparently that’s the best-case scenario. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that cap and trade taxes will actually generate as much as $300 billion per year. If the CBO is right, the carbon tax will amount to about $3 trillion over the coming decade.

According to the Wall Street Journal’s analysis, all consumers would pay more for goods and services that use carbon energy. In other words, pretty much everything.

Maine especially will take a savage hit. Most of our electricity is generated with natural gas, and those plants will be forced to use cap-and-trade emission credits that they will buy and sell in a complicated system of auctions. Remember, this is the same federal government that has bungled everything from the housing crisis to current banking meltdown, while squandering trillions of dollars and our children’s future. No one trusts these people to do anything right, but now they want to fundamentally change the electrical system of the United States. A similar system is already proving disastrous in Europe. Is it any wonder that the stock market is crashing? The market has coldly calculated that the Obama policies are anti-growth, anti-free enterprise, and anti-recovery – and frankly, anti-common sense.

The goal of this whole carbon tax business is not really to reduce so-called greenhouse gases. You will hear the Obama administration claim that this is to save us from global warming or climate change, even though some of the world’s leading climate experts say that global temperatures have actually stabilized or fallen over the last decade. If climate change were the real reason, Congress and the administration would be pushing for more nuclear power plants. They don’t produce any CO2 emissions. Perhaps the real reason is to create a massive new tax stream to fund the many costly social programs at the core of this radical agenda.

There is, of course, one thing that the carbon tax plan overlooks. Cap and trade has the potential to force electricity rates so high that they will drive out what little manufacturing still exists here. There are plenty of other countries with more lenient emissions standards. Forcing manufacturing abroad would steal much-needed jobs from the U.S. economy and actually reduce the effectiveness of cap-and-trade policy from a global environmental perspective.

Democrats in Augusta and Washington need to understand that making energy even more expensive doesn’t make sense, especially when Maine families are struggling to make ends meet.

This is John Robinson, and thanks for listening.

###