Senator John ThuneHistory students learn about the compromises that were crafted through the debate over the Constitution, and how those compromises allowed the new government to succeed. One of the most important compromises was the creation of the U.S. Senate: a legislative body where states are given equal power regardless of their population. The founders created the Senate to protect the interests of smaller states, and this line of defense is no less important today than it was then.
Today, in both the House of Representatives and the Senate, the committee chairmen behind the cap and trade proposals all hail from states on the east and west coasts. As a result, both the controversial bill passed by the House and the proposal that could soon be considered by the Senate favor more populated coastal states at the expense of rural states like South Dakota. Since rural states have equal voice in the Senate, the Senate must stop any climate change legislation that unfairly targets rural America.
South Dakota gets a large percentage of our electrical power from coal. While I am a strong supporter of the hydro electric power that is generated by the dams on the Missouri River as well wind energy development in South Dakota, the simple fact is that coal will continue to provide a large percentage of our nation's base load energy needs in the future.
Even more than the increased costs of electricity generated from coal-fired power plants, the House-passed cap and trade bill would hurt rural states because it would punish agriculture in much the same way that it targets smokestack industries and our nation's manufacturing sector. Agriculture is very energy intensive, and we saw the effect that last year's high fuel prices had on farmers and ranchers. A cap and trade law would result in fuel prices just as high, or even higher, than last summer. Farmers, ranchers, and other rural residents who have to travel longer distances for work would bear a disproportionate share of this cost.
Cap and trade would also hurt rural farm states in another significant way: higher fertilizer costs. Fertilizer production requires large energy inputs, which means cap and trade would greatly increase the cost of producing fertilizer, and as a result, increase the prices paid by farmers and ultimately consumers. Any of the so-called "free allowances" touted by cap and trade proponents would likely be used up by other energy intensive manufacturing industries before fertilizer manufacturers would be able to use them.
The framers of the Constitution created the U.S. Senate to prevent large-state interests from trampling small-state ones. This principle of our government is no less important today than when the Constitution was ratified. Cap and trade is a scheme that does little to curb greenhouse gas emissions while at the same time hurting farmers and ranchers. Especially with our current economic downturn, cap and trade would hurt our entire economy while giving an advantage to countries like China and India who have indicated they will not limit emissions. The House of Representatives passed a flawed bill by a very narrow margin, but in the coming weeks and months I will actively be working with my Senate colleagues on both sides of the aisle to stop it.