Cap and trade or cap and trust?

Tuesday, July 7, 2009 | 4:36 p.m. CDT

You must pardon me if I don’t get a warm and fuzzy feeling over the “Cap and Trade” legislation narrowly passed last week by the House of Representatives. The administration’s glorious augury of this act cutting noxious greenhouse gases to the bone while creating millions of “green” jobs is more consistent with imagination and theory than with fact.

High among my reasons for skepticism for the efficacy of the “American Clean Energy and Security Act” is created by the very founders of the bill itself – Congressmen Henry Waxman of California and Edward Markey of Massachusetts. These two, who have been serving in the House since 1975 and 1976, respectively, have much in common having spent most of their adult lives in state or national legislatures and virtually none in the real world.

Both practiced law for very short intervals, were elected to state assemblies and then to Congress where they have served for the past 35 years. Thus, other than government service, neither has spent much, if any, time in the private sector, much less met a payroll, planned or executed a budget, nor created a single job. And, among their most fervent and vocal cheerleaders are President Barack Obama and former Vice President Al Gore – both of whom enjoy similar career patterns and experience.

Why is this germane you ask? It is of paramount importance because all of the excitement generated over the creation of mythical “green” jobs, the resultant purging of the atmosphere of noxious carbon dioxide and putting an end to man-made global warming/climate change (whichever catch phrase is currently in vogue) notwithstanding, it constitutes a dangerous departure from reality.

Attempting to cap or limit the emissions of carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuel is a costly proposition from any point of view. From a modest Congressional Budget Office's initial first-year estimate of  an average added cost of $175 per family in 2020 to an estimated $1,300 cost per household by 2015 from Charles River Associates it is clear that energy costs will increase substantially.

The largely rural Midwest will suffer the most should this bill pass the Senate – Missouri, Kansas, Illinois, Iowa, etc., et al, receive most electricity from coal – which along with natural gas are our most abundant natural resource. Consequently, any attempt to phase out or to seriously curtail these resources in favor of yet-to-be-defined green jobs borders on insanity.

Anyone with a grasp of fifth-grade arithmetic and a basic understanding of lemonade-stand business economics knows that any increase in the cost of doing business, whether by taxation or cost of goods, will be passed on to the consumer. This may occur through price increase, decrease in quantity or quality of the service or goods, or by the employment of fewer people. To remain in operation, any business or corporation must pay its employees, maintain its equipment and inventory, provide for research and development and show a profit – the notion prevalent among too many that profit and greed are synonymous is simply class envy at its most inane level.

Finally, the application of such draconian measures in what many deem an overreaction to panic-induced fear of global warming or climate change is unwarranted in the opinions of an equal number of scientists. To its discredit, the Al Gore school of global warming systematically refuses public debate of its findings or opinions and engages in character assassination of any scientist daring to dissent.

When one balances theory against reality – the world has been cooling since 1998, the actual increase in earth’s temperature in 125 years is 0.6 of 1 percent, and the percentage of carbon dioxide in the air we breathe is just 0.38 percent —  it is difficult to be overly alarmed.

Additionally, when one considers that this 1,300 page bill, of which 300 are primarily amendments to induce (bribe) unconvinced party members, was engineered by a Congress that has had an approval rating as low as 18 percent, , it is time to ask questions and require answers. When one is already in a hole, even the most backward among us will cease digging.

J. Karl Miller retired as a colonel in the Marine Corps. He is a Columbia resident and can be reached via e-mail at

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