Published: Saturday, May 9, 2009 11:04 p.m. MDT

A cap and trade proposal supported by President Barack Obama would increase electricity bills in the Beehive State by $1,115 per capita, Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, said Friday at the Utah Taxpayers Association's annual conference.

Chaffetz obtained the information from an analysis created for Republicans on the House Ways and Means Committee, and he described the increase as a tax on businesses and regular folks.

"This cap and trade will be at the heart of what is debated in Congress between now and Memorial Day," said the freshman Utah congressman.

With cap and trade, the government would put a cap on the amount of carbon emissions allowed. If businesses invested in reducing carbon emissions, they could sell their allowable emissions to someone else. The idea is to clean the air and reverse humankind's impact on global climate change.

"I don't buy the whole global warming scheme," Chaffetz said.

Chaffetz is more concerned with how, if emissions are traded on a market by investors and speculators, energy prices will increase, which would be "devastating to the economy," he told conference attendees. Businesses are the largest supporters of the association, and they feel they unfairly pay the bulk of taxes.

"Fundamentally at their core, environmentalists want higher energy prices," Chaffetz said. "There is a fundamental core belief that if the energy prices go up, people will use less."

While Chaffetz believes there is some truth to that idea, cap and trade will be too expensive, possibly the largest tax increase ever, with billions generated in cap and trade sales — and the franchise taxes the government collects from utility bills — over the next decade.

However, not everyone believes cap and trade amounts to a tax.

Bob Springmeyer, a former Democratic candidate for Utah governor who works in economic and public policy analysis, said when contacted by the Deseret News that he believes there are only three ways to clean up the air: restricting emissions, cap and trade or taxes.

If government restricted emissions, companies that couldn't conform would close and people would lose their jobs. With cap and trade, emissions would be traded on a market, and with a tax, the government would collect revenue from companies that polluted.

When he ran for governor, Springmeyer said he supported a tax because Utah is a coal-mining state. "If you do it in taxes, that revenue can stay in Utah and can offset the dislocations of our coal industry," he said.

In addition to cap and trade, Chaffetz said he has been surprised at the casual attitude in Washington when spending taxpayers' money. Trillion is the new billion, which was the new million, and sometimes, Chaffetz said, he stares at the fiscal allocations in bills just to make sure he's not confusing "million" with "trillion," for instance. "If you were to spend $1 million a day every day, it would take you nearly 3,000 years to get to $1 trillion," he said.

E-mail: lhancock@desnews.com

 URL: http://www.deseretnews.com/article/705302331/Cap-and-trade-amounts-to-a-tax.html