Op-Ed

Obama using oil spill to impose an energy tax

Mitch McConnell, Senate minority leader, is Kentucky's senior senator.
Mitch McConnell, Senate minority leader, is Kentucky's senior senator.

At issue | July 7 Herald-Leader editorial, "Spill's clarity: Put a price on carbon"

To help me best represent Kentucky in the U.S. Senate, I reach out to people across the state to learn what they're thinking. The more Kentuckians I can talk to, the better.

But if you asked which Kentuckians I value hearing from more than any other, the answer might surprise you: It's the Herald-Leader's editorial board. Whenever this paper tries to take me to task in print, I know I am on the right track. The editorials swim upstream against the tide of Kentucky opinion more than any others.

The July 7 editorial hits precisely the wrong note once again. The tragedy of the gulf oil spill demands that our government's top priority must be stopping the leak and cleaning up the damage it has caused.

But this paper, along with President Barack Obama and the liberal Democrats who control Washington, see it as a chance to jam through a new national energy tax that has been at the top of liberals' wish list for years — long before the Deepwater Horizon exploded and sank.

Most Americans know that this national energy tax — sometimes called "cap and trade" — will hit them every time they fill up their car or flip a switch to turn on a light bulb.

And because Kentucky is rich in coal and other natural resources, most Kentuckians understand that a national energy tax will hit our state much worse than most.

But you don't have to take my word for it. Take it from Kentuckians in every corner of the state, urban and rural, Republican and Democrat, those directly impacted and those who would feel it indirectly as well: A national energy tax would hurt their livelihoods, their businesses and their families.

The barge-shipping industry in Kentucky, for instance, employs thousands of people in our state. Much of the freight those barges carry is coal, and a tax on coal would cost the industry jobs. And since the lost cargo cannot be easily replaced, the jobs will not be replaced either.

Kentucky is home to many automobile manufacturing plants, which employ thousands of people.

More companies in Kentucky exist that serve and are reliant on the automobile industry. The current recession has already hit auto companies hard; many who work at these energy-intensive businesses fear how much a spike in energy prices will add to their troubles.

I've heard from farmers who had nothing to do with the oil spill, but would face increased fertilizer and fuel costs to keep their farms running. To remain competitive in a global marketplace, they can't raise prices, and would be forced to absorb the full force of the tax and cut jobs.

Many electric co-op consumers across the state live on fixed incomes. They fear an increase in their utility bills — an increase that could cost some of them their homes.

And every one of us will have to pay more whenever we use energy, or buy something that used energy to manufacture it, sell it or ship it.

The common thread through all of these concerns is frustration and anger. People are frustrated that Washington thinks it knows best — knows best about your family's health care, owning American automobile companies, or running the banking industry.

But Washington can't fulfill its most important job to protect this country and our resources and stop this oil spill.

At the same time, people are angry that Obama and the Democrats in Congress are using this catastrophe to push through totally unrelated bad policy. Obama advocated a national energy tax even before he was elected, and has admitted that "under my plan of a cap-and-trade system, electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket."

The reasons why a national energy tax is a bad idea have not changed. Kentuckians have rejected this liberal agenda before, and they reject it today.

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