Climate change legislative battle heating up

Momentum may be building for introduction of a sweeping climate change bill in Congress (maybe as early as next week) but so is opposition.
For the past six months or so opponents to new U.S. laws that would slow and eventually reduce emission levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases have been relatively quiet. By the late stages of the presidential elections both major party candidates had strong positions in favor of such laws. Obama’s win and the formation of his energy and environment team in the administration kept the pro-legislation ball rolling such that the closest thing to strong opposition was Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson saying her preferred a carbon tax to a cap-and-trade system.
But in recent weeks as some of the details of the likely legislation have floated around Capitol Hill, opponents have had something more tangible to seize upon.
The American Petroleum Institute was “shocked” at the cost of the legislation (or rather one administration official’s estimate of how much money could be raised through auctioning emissions permits) :

“The White House’s unofficial new estimate for the cost of capping the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions is shocking. The nearly $2 trillion in fees that would be imposed on the use of natural gas, gasoline, coal and other fuels would increase energy costs for all America’s businesses and families, keeping our economy in low gear, eliminating jobs, depressing living standards and putting our domestic energy industries at a competitive disadvantage.”

And the Industrial Energy Consumers of America warn it will drive jobs overseas:

“Unilaterally capping US GHG emissions is the worst thing the congress can do right now,’ said Paul N. Cicio, President of the Industrial Energy Consumers of America (IECA). “Capping GHG emissions will drive up the cost of natural gas and electricity in the US while major competing countries like China continue to subsidize their manufacturers.”

And the Dallas-based National Center for Policy Analysis says cap-and-trade laws with hurt the poor:

Current proposals to regulate greenhouse gas emissions will raise energy prices, reduce economic growth, and disproportionately affect low and moderate income families, according to Dr. Burnett. Energy costs consume 15 percent of the poorest households’ income, compared to only 3 percent of average households. This is because the poor and those on fixed incomes spend a greater portion of their disposable income on food and fuel, he says.”
“If we adopt these schemes, President Obama would be taxing the poor to satisfy the overblown concerns of his affluent green constituency.”

There’s little debate that climate change policies will raise costs for energy. The whole point of such plans is to put a price on externalities, the previously unaccounted-for cost of pollution. (Here’s where skeptics of man-made climate change post a comment something like “CO2 does not change the climate, it’s all an Al Gore conspiracy myth.”)
The argument is that it will be cheaper to pay for reducing emissions (developing carbon capture and sequestration technology, alternative energy sources, etc.) than it will be to deal with the potential impacts of climate change (relocating communities due to rising sea levels, shifting agricultural production regions to match changing weather patterns).
Reid Detchon, Executive Director of the Energy Future Coalition has a downright optimistic take on the pending legislation:

“The surprising secret is that a carbon cap would be an economic stimulus for low and middle-income consumers. If the revenue from a carbon cap is returned to the public, most consumers will come out even, and consumers whose energy use is below average will come out ahead–their rebate checks will be larger than the increase in their energy costs. “

So, will the details of the bill address the IEAC concerns that caps here will just drive more manufacturing overseas to even heavier polluting plants, making the CO2 problem worse (a concern called “leakage”)? Will the initial emissions credits be given away or auctioned? If auctioned will the money really go right back into consumer pockets, as Detchon seems to hope? Keep watching the details.