Commerce Secretary: America needs to pay for China’s emissions

posted at 12:00 pm on July 19, 2009 by Ed Morrissey

It’s bad enough that the Obama administration wants to penalize all Americans for their energy use through the cap-and-tax scheme that will hobble our economy and hike electricity and gas costs, but until now they only proposed to penalize us for our own energy use.  With China refusing to join the West in economic suicide, who will pay for their emissions?  Commerce Secretary says that the American consumer is to blame for China’s energy-production emissions — and we’ll pay for that instead of the Chinese:

Commerce Secretary Gary Locke said something amazing—U.S. consumers should pay for part of Chinese greenhouse-gas emissions. From Reuters:

“It’s important that those who consume the products being made all around the world to the benefit of America — and it’s our own consumption activity that’s causing the emission of greenhouse gases, then quite frankly Americans need to pay for that,” Commerce Secretary Gary Locke told the American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai.

The idea that rich-country consumers should pick up the tab for some of China’s industrial emissions has been gaining currency lately—but not from within the Obama administration. The argument is that many of China’s factories churn out cheap stuff for the West, not for domestic consumption, so those consumers are actually responsible for the emissions. China, of course, loves the idea.

Commerce sent this non-responsive statement to the Wall Street Journal when they reported this late Friday night:

“Secretary Locke has been very clear on emphasizing the importance of fair trade as a part of the United States’ relationship with China. He believes U.S. companies should not be disadvantaged by Chinese imports not bound by responsible policies to reduce carbon emissions. China and the US must work together to ensure a level playing field and reduce our carbon footprints. The Secretary’s trip to China demonstrated his commitment to fair trade and his belief that both the United States and China can benefit from shared investments and cooperation in clean energy that will lead to commercial and environmental benefits for both countries.”

This could happen in one of two ways.  The Obama administration could make cap-and-tax more expensive in order to make up for the emissions from China, which would absolutely delight Beijing.  In fact, that would allow them an easily-adjustable pressure point on the American economy by simply increasing their emissions.  If the US increased the penalties for domestic emissions in order to compensate, the Chinese could sell their good much more cheaply in the US than domestic producers.

The other option would be energy-production tariffs on imported goods, which would touch off a trade war with China.  That would make goods more expensive in the US at the same time energy bills begin to skyrocket, launching an inflationary spiral and begging China for retaliation.  Since China holds a large amount of US debt, that retaliation could get extremely expensive for both countries.

The US does not need to pay for China’s carbon emissions, even if the “greenhouse effect” presents a danger to the planet, a theory which increasingly looks suspect.  This is yet another version of the blame-America impulse in the Obama administration, one that will hit us all in the wallet — and in our outlets and furnaces.

Update: My friend Derek Brigham of Freedom Dogs has a great new graphic for the Obama administration’s Blame America Tour 2009.  Be sure to use it — and to link back to Derek when you do:

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