President Obama and many other politicians continue to insist that carbon dioxide emissions are changing Earth's climate and that we need to take immediate action to prevent catastrophes predicted by computer models, Al Gore and fellow alarmists. Above all, they want to tax carbon dioxide emissions to force people to use less hydrocarbon energy and "save vital federal programs" from wanton budgetary axes.
Their dreams of $100 billion windfalls from regressive taxes on job creation and economic growth are dangerous hallucinations. They would bring intense pain with no climate or economic gain.
A Heritage Foundation study has found that a carbon tax starting at $25 per ton of carbon dioxide emitted and increasing by 5 percent per year would cut an average family's income by $1,400 annually, raise its utility bills by $500 a year and increase gasoline fill-ups by up to 50 cents per gallon.
That is $2,500 a year chopped from family budgets for food, vacations, home and car payments and repairs, college and retirement savings, dental and medical care, and overall quality of life. Even "millionaire" families making $200,000 a year would find this painful.
The poorest families might get some offsetting tax relief, but most would get nothing -- and no small businesses or energy-intensive manufacturers would see rebates for their soaring energy costs. Nor would malls, hospitals, schools, churches or charities receive any relief.
Companies would be forced to trim hours, salaries or employees. Aggregate job losses would reach at least 1 million by 2016, says Heritage. That would bring more home foreclosures, greater stress, reduced nutrition and more strokes and heart attacks.
Hydrocarbons provide more than 83 percent of the energy that powers America. A carbon tax would put a hefty surcharge on everything we make, grow, ship, eat and do. It would put the federal government in control of 100 percent of our economy and lives. It would make the United States increasingly less productive, less competitive globally and less able to provide opportunities for its citizens.
Worse, this tax is not being promoted in a vacuum. It would be imposed on top of countless other job and economy-strangling actions.
Mr. Obama's Environmental Protection Agency already has issued 2,070 rules and dispensed a regulatory burden of more than $353 billion per year -- equal to all wealth generated annually by Virginia's private sector. The agency now is preparing still more rules, the most crushing of which would regulate the same carbon dioxide emissions that some in Congress want to tax, from moving and stationary sources.
Most, if not all, of the agency's punitive rules are based on exaggerated risks, junk science and illusory health, welfare, "environmental justice" and "sustainability" benefits.
Other agencies are inflicting still more rules and more crushing paperwork burdens. Obamacare alone will add 127,602,371 more hours annually to federal paperwork burdens for American businesses and families. Even at $25 per hour, that is $32 billion a year.
On top of that are Dodd-Frank financial requirements and myriad other costly, time-consuming, economy-sapping, job-killing rules. Nothing suggests that Congress would reverse or modify any of these laws, regulations and taxes as part of a carbon tax deal -- or that Mr. Obama would refrain from vetoing any attempted change.
Nothing suggests that Congress, the president or environmentalists will ease their opposition to issuing drilling and fracking permits for more of our vast onshore and offshore oil and gas deposits, which could generate millions of jobs and billions of dollars in royalties and tax revenue.
Instead of real energy for real jobs and revenue, Mr. Obama wants to redouble spending on "green" energy -- extracting billions of dollars from still-productive sectors of our economy and transferring the money to crony corporatists and campaign contributors, whose operations are exempted from endangered species and other environmental laws that routinely punish oil, mining and other companies.
Meanwhile, federal discretionary spending skyrocketed another $129 billion annually in just four years under Mr. Obama. That is comparable to what carbon tax snake-oil salesmen claim a $25-per-ton tax would raise each year, several years into a steadily escalating tax -- using static analyses that ignore all these "concrete lifesaver" effects.
The net result of a carbon tax will not be more federal revenue. It will be more economic strangulation, a more bloated federal bureaucracy, more layoffs, sharply higher unemployment, food stamp and welfare payouts, and reduced corporate and personal income-tax receipts.
Federal revenue would go down, not up. For what?
Earth's average temperatures haven't budged in 16 years. Arctic ice is back to normal; the Antarctic ice pack is growing. Hurricanes and strong tornadoes are near their lowest levels in decades. The rate of sea-level rise remains what it was in 1900.
China, India, other developing nations and even Europe are burning more coal, emitting more carbon dioxide and sending atmospheric carbon-dioxide levels higher. The sun ultimately is the real force behind climate change.
The only thing that will happen if carbon taxes are inflicted on our economy is that American jobs, economic growth, living standards, health, welfare, dreams and lives will be sacrificed for nothing.
We need to stop basing laws and policies on hallucinations -- and start basing them on reality.
Paul Driessen is senior policy adviser for the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow and author of "Eco-Imperialism: Green Power, Black Death" (Merril Press, 2012).