NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


June 9, 2009

The running joke in Washington is that nobody has read the 900-plus-page energy bill sponsored by Reps. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.) and Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), which the House will consider in coming weeks.  What you hear from its backers is that its cap-and-trade provisions would create a market-based program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  In fact, the bill also contains regulations on everything from light bulb standards to the specs on hot tubs, and it will reshape America's economy in dozens of ways that many don't realize, says the Washington Post.

Here is just one -- the bill would give the federal government power over local building codes, says the Post:

  • It requires that by 2012, new buildings be 30 percent more efficient than they would have been under current regulations; by 2016 that figure rises to 50 percent, with further increases scheduled.
  • Therefore, the bill expects organizations that develop model codes for states and localities to fill in the details, creating a national code.
  • If they don't, the bill commands the Energy Department to draft a national code itself.
  • States, meanwhile, would have to adopt the national code or one that achieves the same efficiency targets; those that refuse will see their codes overwritten automatically and docked federal funds and carbon "allowances."

According to the bill's advocates, America's buildings account for perhaps 40 percent of U.S. greenhouse emissions, and technology is available for builders to meet the targets in ways that are economical for building owners.  But is the best way to achieve that to federalize what has long been a matter of local concern?

And if the point of cap-and-trade is to change market incentives, why does Congress, and not the market, need to dictate these changes, asks the Post?

Source: Editorial, "Buried Code," Washington Post, June 7, 2009.


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