- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 12, 2010

We all remember how painful it was when gasoline prices surged past four bucks a gallon a couple years ago. The price is now around $3 a gallon. That steep sum will seem like chump change if global-warming alarmists in Congress have their way.

Long-anticipated climate-change legislation is scheduled to be unveiled in the Senate today. The ostensible purpose is to clean the air by cutting carbon emissions 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020. If the bill becomes law, though, consumers will get smoked as they are forced to pay more for a fill-up.

Backers of this measure are more beholden to ideology than reality. As scientific data shows the Earth is actually cooling, the only thing heating up is alarmist rhetoric. On Friday, Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs said the president believes “now more than ever is the time to act,” indicating White House complicity in the push for higher gas prices. Attempting to impose new burdens on American families struggling in a buckling economy in hopes of mitigating an unproven climate theory says a lot about the O Force’s warped priorities.

The bill’s sponsors had a hard time getting this one ready for prime time. Sen. John Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat, and Sen. Joe Lieberman, Connecticut independent, planned to introduce their legislation last month but delayed it when co-sponsor Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican, dropped out after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid decided to advance amnesty for illegal aliens instead.

Speculation about the costly details to the Senate measure range from adoption of the cap-and-trade provision contained in the House bill passed last summer to cap-and-dividend. Both schemes call for limits on carbon-dioxide emissions and would force companies to purchase or trade emissions permits. The widely reviled cap-and-trade plan would institute a Wall Street-type market for carbon permit exchanges. Cap-and-dividend would prohibit the marketing of carbon permits and instead collect revenues in a government account that would - in theory - be rebated to consumers. (Don’t hold your breath waiting for that check.)

Whatever the taxing mechanism is called, the end result would be the same: the imposition of increased costs on all carbon-based energy products, which would be passed on to consumers. Americans would see steeper prices at the gas pump, the recent slide in crude oil prices notwithstanding. They also would pay higher utility bills, and products at the mall would be more expensive. Overall, each family would shell out an extra $800 a year for energy costs, according to a Heritage Foundation estimate.

Polls consistently show that taxpayers are opposed to the higher gas costs a climate-change bill would impose. The upcoming Memorial Day weekend marks the start of the summer travel season, and the AAA Daily Fuel Gauge Report currently pegs the average price of a gallon of regular unleaded gas at $2.91. That’s up nearly 68 cents from a year ago. Additional carbon fees on fuel would jack up costs even more.

Politicians would be unwise to exacerbate the pain at the pump for families facing the worst economy in generations. Delegates at Utah’s Republican primary convention waved yellow “Do not tread on me” flags as they ousted three-term Sen. Robert F. Bennett Saturday. Congressional incumbents, Democrat or Republican, had best take note.