- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 23, 2009

President Obama is the most radical leader in U.S. history. Much of the public is focused on his ambitious plan to nationalize health care. The more they hear about it, the less they like it. Hence, Mr. Obama’s poll numbers are dropping like a stone.

Yet his environmentalist agenda is just as dangerous. If passed, it will destroy America’s free-market system. Like most liberal elitists, Mr. Obama is an incremental socialist. He does not believe in revolutionary change through blood and iron — as did Soviet dictator Josef Stalin or Cuban despot Fidel Castro. Rather, Mr. Obama champions evolutionary socialism: the state’s gradual takeover of key sectors of private industry. He is anti-capitalist and pro-big-government.

His cap-and-trade initiative seeks to severely limit carbon-dioxide emissions. Every business involved in carbon emissions would be required to purchase permits from the government. Over time, emissions allowed would be curbed, making the permits increasingly valuable — and expensive. Companies would be allowed to trade or sell them on the open market.

Cap-and-trade would impose huge costs on the economy and undermine job creation. Moreover, it would transform America into an impoverished socialist superstate. It would create a new ruling class that would oversee economic development, forcing an eco-friendly lifestyle on every resident.

The House of Representatives already has passed the draconian legislation. It faces an uphill fight in the Senate. However, if Mr. Obama gets his way on health care reform, that may generate unstoppable momentum for his environmental package.

The carbon-trading scheme is built on the myth of man-made global warming. It is not based on sound science, but leftist ideology.

To compel Americans to accept a massive expansion of government power and tax increases, the left has resorted to a campaign of fear and hysteria: Global-warming theory claims carbon-dioxide emissions cause a “greenhouse” atmospheric effect, leading to rising Earth temperatures. The result, it says, will be a global catastrophe of biblical proportions — the melting of ice caps, rising sea levels, the flooding of entire islands and coastal cities, droughts, economic devastation, mass starvation and death.

Yet leading scientists from around the world have debunked the theory of human-caused global warming. Environmentalists cannot answer a basic question: Why is it that for centuries the Earth’s temperature has ticked slightly up and down, constantly repeating the same cycle even before the emergence of the Industrial Revolution? Therefore, curtailing the use of fossil fuels — oil, coal and natural gas — would not stop climate change.

It would, however, dramatically erode our standard of living. In a rare, candid moment during the 2008 election campaign, Mr. Obama admitted his goal was to scale back Americans’ consumption, including driving big cars, using air conditioning and eating cheeseburgers: He wants to reduce our prosperity.

“We can’t drive our SUVs, and eat whatever we want, and keep our homes at 72 [degrees] all the time, whether we live in the desert or the tundra, and keep consuming 25 percent of the world’s resources with just 4 percent of the world’s population, and expect the rest of the world to say ‘You just go ahead. We’ll be fine.’ That’s not leadership. That’s not going to happen.”

By the administration’s own estimates, cap-and-trade would cost taxpayers at least $645 billion. Other estimates say the burden would be threefold higher. This would cost every American $2,100 to $6,300.

Carbon-trading is a large indirect tax on businesses, forcing them to purchase expensive emissions permits. The policy would increase the price of gas, oil and electricity to encourage consumers to use alternative energy sources. This would mean higher prices at the pump, soaring heating bills and rising food costs. Mr. Obama and liberal Democrats want Americans to consume less electricity (mostly produced by coal, oil and natural gas). The result of this would be less use of computers, iPods, microwaves, cell phones, washers and dryers, dishwashers, air conditioners and refrigerators — the very conveniences of modern life.

For years, the left has railed against the military-industrial complex. Yet cap-and-trade is an integral part of what environmentalist skeptic Bjorn Lomborg calls the “green-industrial complex” — the unholy alliance of the powerful green lobby, special business interests, scientific research and government policy. Billions of dollars are to be made in selling and trading carbon permits. And everyone — from Al Gore to George Soros to now-bankrupt Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. — wants a slice of the action.

Environmentalism has very little to do with protecting the environment. It is green socialism. Its objective is to achieve what red communism couldn’t: the conquest of capitalism. Instead of central planning and a command economy, we would have a highly regulated, highly taxed bureaucratic corporatism that would stifle economic growth and individual initiative.

Beginning in the 19th century, much of the Western intelligentsia lost faith in God. The 20th century saw numerous attempts - Marxism, fascism, national socialism — to construct a society without God. They failed. Now the West’s liberal elites are seeking to infuse the radical secular project with new meaning and purpose — man’s salvation through the worship of Gaea, Mother Earth.

The green movement is a form of pantheism. It hopes to sacrifice prosperity, abundance and wealth at the altar of a false god.

Mr. Obama is its prophet of doom. And America is its victim.

Jeffrey T. Kuhner is a columnist at The Washington Times and president of the Edmund Burke Institute, a Washington-based think tank.

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