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Cap McCain's hot air

By Henry Lamb
web posted May 19, 2008

John McCain's proposed "cap-and-trade" program is a disease far worse than the alleged global warming his proposal seeks to cure.   His proposed program would not reduce carbon emissions; it would increase the price of energy; it would expand the reach, power, and cost of government; and it would push the U.S. another step closer to government control of the sources of production.

Simply put, his program would empower government to set an arbitrary limit on the amount of energy every industry could use, by setting an arbitrary "cap" on the amount of carbon every industry could emit.  Emissions beyond this arbitrary limit, or "cap," would be taxed.  The subject industry could avoid the tax only by reducing emission – by reducing the input of fossil fuel – or by purchasing so-called "carbon credits" from other industries that have not used their arbitrary limit.   Either way, the additional cost to the industry will be passed on to the consumer as a part of the cost of production. 

In theory, the industry will not reduce its overall energy input, but will replace a portion of the fossil fuel with non-fossil fuel energy sources such as solar, wind, or whatever.  These energy sources, if available, are more expensive than fossil fuels, and the additional costs will be passed on to consumers.

These costs pale in comparison to the increase in the cost of government required to implement the program.  Government will have to establish a carbon limit for every business within every target industry.  Government will design and require a method of reporting carbon use.  Government will necessarily expand the bureaucracy needed to review and input this data into another government computer.  Government will create a new bureaucracy to monitor the industries to insure that they are not cheating on their reports.  And, of course, there will need to be a new enforcement agency.

This program is at least a full employment act for the Environmental Protection Agency, if not justification for a whole new federal Environmental Police Department.

The most compelling reason to reject McCain's cap and trade proposal is the enormous expansion of power it would bestow upon the executive branch of government: the absolute power to control the most important source of production – energy.

Nothing is produced without the use of energy.  Fossil fuels provide nearly 80 percent of all energy in the U.S. and virtually all energy used in transportation.  Should government gain control over private use of energy, government would most certainly control a most important source of production.

Consider what the sources of production are:  raw materials, or natural resources; the energy required to convert raw material to product; and the initiative to do it.  Through a whole range of land use control laws and regulations, government effectively controls the use of land and the raw materials it contains.  Pending legislation, if enacted, will give government control over every drop of water in the nation – essential to all production.  John McCain's cap-and-trade proposal would give government absolute control over energy use.

What then, would distinguish the U.S. from any other socialist nation?

It would not be the Congress.  Congress has allowed, and often even assisted, the executive branch in the usurpation of its policy-making function.  Congress is rapidly becoming little more than a rubber stamp for policies designed, implemented, and enforced by the executive branch of government.  Again, what distinguishes the U.S. from other socialist nations?

It certainly is not individual freedom.  The freedom Americans once had to own property and control the use of it, to dig a well, to irrigate crops, to cut trees – now requires the permission of government, as is the case in other socialist nations.

It certainly is not free markets.  The freedom Americans once had to see a market opportunity and invest effort and capital in a venture to create a product to satisfy a market demand – now requires the permission of government, and increasingly, a partnership with government that ultimately controls the venture.

Currently, there is an obvious opportunity to satisfy a growing market demand by producing more energy.  The resources are available, the initiative, the capital, and the will to produce it are all at the ready.  The missing ingredient is government's permission.

John McCain's proposed cap-and-trade program would essentially confiscate fossil fuel energy, and remove all free-market opportunities.  The major difference between McCain's proposal and the Kyoto Protocol is  that the EPA would be the arbiter and enforcer, rather than some international agency.  Of course, it is  only a small step from McCain's program to acceptance of the Kyoto Protocol, or something even worse.ESR

Henry Lamb is the executive vice president of the Environmental Conservation Organization (ECO), and chairman of Sovereignty International.

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