In the thunderous opposition to Waxman-Markey, a curious common note merges. Everybody is hating on the concessions to agriculture.
From the right at NRO, 50 Reasons to Oppose W-M:
5. In addition to the permits, the bill also allows for the creation of “offsets” — the medieval-style indulgences of the carbon-footprint world. In fact, nearly all of Waxman-Markey’s carbon-reduction targets can be met with offsets alone through 2050, meaning decades before any actual reduction of greenhouse gases is required. That means huge new expenses for small businesses and consumers in return for basically zero environmental improvement. And how does one earn an offset to sell? Get a farm and cash in through such methods as, and we quote, “improved manure management,” “reduced tillage/no-tillage,” or “afforestation of marginal farmlands.” Translation: Plant some trees around the house and claim some extra credits on the land the government may already be paying you not to farm. And do a better job of handling your B.S. — but you’ll never do as good a job on that one as the authors of Waxman-Markey.To be sure, the point of many conservatives is that W-M is a horrible idea, but as you see many of their objections have to do with the preferential treatment of ag. This presents a real challenge for ag lobbyists, IMHO.
6. Because the cap-and-trade regime will disadvantage domestic refineries vis-à-vis foreign competitors, such as India’s powerhouse Reliance Industries, Waxman-Markey is attempting to buy them off with free permits — 2 percent of the national total will go to domestic refineries, at no cost.
7. Agribusiness is exempted from cap-and-trade controls, but the farm lobby will be given permits to sell and to profit from anyway. All carrot, no stick — precisely what this powerful industry lobby is accustomed to receiving from Washington.
8. Waxman-Markey strips the EPA of its oversight role when it comes to managing the offsets associated with American farms. At the behest of Cargill and other big players in the farm lobby, oversight will be entrusted to the USDA — basically a wholly owned subsidiary of the agriculture cartel, one of America’s most rapacious special-interest groups, which already is stuffed with subsidies and sops.
9. Waxman-Markey directs the EPA to ignore the real environmental impact of ethanol and other biofuels. The gigantic subsidies lavished on the farm lobby through the ethanol program encourage farmers to clear forest land to plant corn — a net environmental loss that the use of ethanol does nothing to offset. An earlier version of the legislation that would have accounted for land-use changes was altered at the farm lobby’s demand. Now, the EPA will be forbidden to rain the same pain on the ethanol gang that it’s going to rain on the rest of the economy — a minimum of five years’ (ahem) “study” is required before a ruling on whether ethanol should be treated the same as any other fuel, and the EPA, USDA, and Congress all must agree to act before Big Corn reaps what Waxman-Markey sows.
10. Rural electrical cooperatives are demanding that the offsets be awarded in proportion to historic emissions, and they probably will prevail. This means that high-polluting generators, such as the coal-fired plants typical of electric co-ops’ members, will be rewarded because they pollute more, while cleaner producers, such as those using nuclear and hydroelectric power, will be penalized.
11. The farm lobby will be rewarded for practices that do little or nothing to reduce greenhouse gases. One such practice is “no till” planting, in which farmers forgo plowing and plant seeds directly into the soil. Two peer-reviewed scientific papers suggest that no-till either does nothing to decrease carbon dioxide or actually increases the level of greenhouse-gas emissions by upping emissions of nitrous oxide — a much more powerful greenhouse gas. Now it’s not clear that no-till will reduce greenhouse gases, but the practice does make weed-control more difficult, meaning that it supports the market for herbicides such as Monsanto’s RoundUp. Guess who’s spending millions lobbying for no-till?