- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 4, 2009

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

The recently passed House bill on global warming is a 1,500-page political sucker punch that could give family finances a bloody nose and ultimately flatten the economy while proponents pretend it will save the planet.

In and of itself, it won’t do an inch of good. Assume if you want that all the talk of unperturbed greenhouse gases finally frying us is true and that the bill would slowly reduce carbon emissions in the United States to roughly the level of 100 years ago. The impact of holding down an increase in world temperatures by the end of this century still would be utterly unnoticeable.

That’s right, all the current sound and fury would signify nothing unless the rest of the world joined in, especially China and India, which probably won’t do any such thing.

As we all know, those two countries are growing like crazy but remain fundamentally poor and would stay poor if they should sign on to really, truly serious efforts to phase out fossil fuels before markets and entrepreneurs come up with efficient, cost-effective alternatives beyond the capacity of central planners to devise.

Of course, the House bill is not really, truly serious. Although disastrous consequences can be discerned deep in its long-term intentions, political observers have noted that the Democrats played all kinds of games so that very little that is either nasty or meaningful transpires until the 2010 elections are past and, even then, that carbon emissions from coal burning could continue to increase for a decade before decreasing.

Before long, however, the Senate will have its say, and no one is sure whether it will soften things up more (further aggravating already peeved environmental groups), toughen things up (further imperiling the general welfare) or simply pass this time around. If it does do something, there is one thing you can count on: We will have cap-and-trade, which is to say, we the people will suffer.

Cap-and-trade refers to a system with emissions limits that allows industries to barter with one another about who emits how much. Advocates refer to it as free enterprise, but there is nothing free about it - it would be a government-mandated bureaucratic monstrosity. It hasn’t worked to solve much of anything in Europe, and economist William Nordhaus of Yale fears it could cost trillions more to implement than whatever warming damage it might prevent.

The main reason for the thing is that most of those discussing it do not call it a tax, which is a word voters do not like. Many on both the left and right think a straightforward carbon tax would be preferable to cap-and-trade, but there’s that ugly, awful word.

The obvious truth is that cap-and-trade is, in effect, a tax, and depending on how it is carried out, it could be a very steep one for industries that would pass on the cost to consumers. Utility bills could go up by thousands of dollars in constant dollars for a family of four as the decades pass, some analysts think.

Meanwhile, rescue for an economy increasingly squeezed by the politics of warming alarmism is supposed to come in the form of “green jobs,” only it won’t. Various researchers are figuring out that we could lose more manufacturing and other jobs than we would gain and that many of those green jobs as currently outlined would be nonproductive and subsidized.

The capper of cap-and-trade is that the globe hasn’t been warming lately and, according to one study, may undergo more cooling for another decade or more. Despite all the talk about sure-enough, catastrophic, human-induced warming, the number of doubting Thomases in the sciences is growing, as are some interesting ideas of relatively inexpensive means of saving ourselves if reliable evidence develops that the worst possibilities are almost certainly true.

Congress, spare us.

Jay Ambrose is formerly Washington director of editorial policy for Scripps Howard newspapers.

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