Will "Cap and Trade" Be Good for Industry?

John G. Swanson
July 8, 2009
THE TALK... | Energy Efficiency

Survey Results for 07/08/2009:

The cap-and-trade bill passed by the House will be:

Bad for industry and country




Good for the industry and the country




Good for industry, but bad for country




Bad for industry, but good for country




The industry generally casts a wary eye toward Washington so it's no surprise that our poll results suggest great doubts that a bill with ambitions to address issues as big as global warming and energy independence won't hurt their businesses, cost too much money and/or hamper the economy in general. The majority of comments from readers made that fairly clear also.

"I feel as though the government folks still do not get what it means to try and 'make ends meet' these days. All I hear about in Washington is that they want to tax everything, yet many homeowners wonder how they will pay the power bill and still be able to afford day-care for their kids, because moms must work to keep any type of the American dream alive," writes Michael J. Vaneman, who is with a  Pennsylvania-based manufacturer.

"The whole global-warming thing, to me, has been blown way out of proportion," he continues. "Most scientists now will say that our earth has warmed and cooled over long periods of time, and that we happen to me nearing the end of a warming cycle. A cooling off period will eventually follow, and then what will all these folks be crying about?"

Speaking only for himself and not his company, he says, "As an employee of a window company focused on the window designs that WILL reduce energy costs, I like the direction we are heading, but please, let’s try to use some common sense and make these transitions beneficial to both our society and the economy, not detrimental. For those who have no common sense left, taxes are the wrong way."

A retailer of windows, doors and other millwork products based in the Northeast offered similar sentiments. "I think this is a bad bill at a bad time. I think it's a noble idea to try to save the planet, but what about all the other industrialized nations? Why should the U.S. always take a hit?," she asks. "We need to come to some sort of global agreement on steps that many nations can take at the same time. Also, why add to the cost of construction and remodeling at a time when the housing industry continues to decline and bleed more jobs? Once again, Congress has proven that they are out of touch with regular folks."

Pointing to recent experience, Roy Cooper of Superior WIndows & Doors in Ashland, Ore., writes, "There was very little stimulus in the stimulus bill. Although it helped our industry it was a bad move, in general, for the country as it will probably delay or slow recovery. 'Cap n Trade' will put a bullet in the head of recovery. Candidate Obama said that $6 per gallon gas would be good for this country and is attempting to get us there. $6 per gallon gas will, in my opinion, force those that haven't lost their homes into foreclosure and close small businesses at an catastrophic rate. I pray that the Senate has enough brains to kill this before it kills this country."

My libertarian streak tells me there's great reason to be skeptical of cap-and-trade legislation.  I do worry, however, that the industry's general disapproval of the concept could hurt us. I don't know whether more companies and their leaders are fighting passage of such a bill or simply sitting on the sidelines hoping it will fail. Given our poll results with only 15 percent of respondents indicating the House bill would be "good for the country and good for the industry," I doubt that many are involved in supporting the bill.  I wonder though whether that translates into a lack of input that would lead to provisions that might be more beneficial (or less harmful) to our industry, not to mention the country.

Perhaps we are too small an industry to have much of an impact in the horse trading that's going on in Washington, but there certainly are other industries that are well represented and getting their particular issues before Congress. If cap-and-trade does become law, some will no doubt benefit. 

The voice of opposition is understandable, but I can't help but wonder if an alternate strategy should be considered as well. I do know that increasing the energy efficiency of our country significantly is a key goal in the legislation. The window and door industry can play a big role in that and should probably get its voice heard as a result.


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