Jon Sanders

An Associated Press story last week related "good news" about expected heating costs this winter: namely, it will cost people less to heat their homes this year, according to the Energy Information Administration. To read the story, one would think that the government considers that to be good news, too.

Under a cap-and-trade regime, however, this same news would be considered calamitous. By the government, that is – consumers would, of course, remain consistent in their opinion that higher energy costs are bad news and lower costs, good. Making energy more expensive is what the whole cap-and-trade scheme depends on.

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The House legislation known as cap-and-trade, HR 2454 (Waxman-Markey), is intended to limit (cap) greenhouse-gas emissions in the United States, including especially carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, starting in 2012. The cap would be set initially at a level 3 percent lower than U.S. emissions in 2005 and would tighten by 2050 to be at 83 percent lower than 2005 emissions.

It is important to understand that emissions are a byproduct of energy production, especially from fossil fuels, and 85 percent of U.S. energy is from fossil fuels. The cap would begin by restricting energy production until it is forced into so-called "green" energy alternatives (which never include emissions-free but maddeningly efficient nuclear power) — alternatives that are far too inefficient to work without government forcing people onto them.

By effectively limiting energy production and forcing new production to come from new, highly inefficient sources, the legislation would greatly increase the cost of electricity on everyone: the working poor, families struggling on the cusp of poverty, college students, elderly on fixed incomes, small businesses, everybody.

Think of every subgroup of people that has ever been held forth by the Democrats for universal sympathy as a substitute for an argument in favor of some piece of legislation. Think of every time the Democrats have ever said we must pass such-and-such bill because it would help this group of people and hey, the only conceivable reason someone wouldn't support this bill is if he hates those people. Well, of all those groups, every last one of them would be harmed by cap-and-trade. On purpose.


Jon Sanders

Jon Sanders is associate director of research at the John Locke Foundation in Raleigh, N.C.