John Stossel

"Instead of idly debating the precise extent of global warming, ... we need to deal with the central facts of rising temperatures, rising waters, and all the endless troubles that global warming will bring. We stand warned by serious and credible scientists across the world that time is short and the dangers are great. The most relevant question now is whether our own government is equal to the challenge" (

With that, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee John McCain threw his support -- again -- to a complex government program to reduce carbon emissions. He claims he can do this, without causing economic hardship, by using the power of the free market.

As The Wall Street Journal commented, "His plan is 'market based' insofar as it requires an expensive, invasive government bureaucracy to interfere with the market".

McCain's cap-and-trade system would have a bureaucracy set a limit for CO2 emissions and auction tradable permits to carbon-emitting companies. McCain says the revenue would be "put to good use." Specifically, "We will add to current federal efforts to develop promising technologies. ... We will also establish clear standards in government-funded research, to make sure that funding is effective and focused on the right goals."

We've heard that before. You'd think McCain would have learned that government isn't cut out for this sort of thing.

For all his lip service to markets, there is no getting around the fact that McCain will use force -- that's what government is -- to accomplish his goals. There are only two ways to do things: voluntary or forced. The market is voluntary. No one is ever forced to buy or sell anything.

Cap-and-trade sounds good. Trade is good. But "cap" is force. Government will make arbitrary decisions about how much CO2 will be permitted in a thousand different situations. I can only begin to imagine the bureaucracy that will be required. Will chimney police go to every business and home telling you how much you can emit? Will armed officials from a Department of Global Warming raid your house and jail you if you run your air-conditioner too much? I assume friends of Al Gore will get special dispensation because they are working for the good of the nation.

How much will McCain's plan reduce global temperatures?

He doesn't say -- probably because even the most radical climate-change policies promise no more than a negligible reduction.

John Stossel

John Stossel is host of "Stossel" on the Fox Business Network. He's the author of "No They Can't: Why Government Fails, but Individuals Succeed." To find out more about John Stossel, visit his site at > To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at ©Creators Syndicate