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Hot air for sale

By Henry Lamb
web posted March 27, 2006

New Mexico Senators Domenici and Bingaman are launching an initiative to create a Kyoto-style emissions trading scheme in the United States. This idea, conceived in the bowels of the United Nations, is designed to reduce the use of fossil fuel by limiting the emissions of carbon dioxide that can be released into the atmosphere. Proponents of the scheme claim that reduction of carbon dioxide emissions will reduce global warming.

The emissions trading scheme authorizes the government to set arbitrary limits on the quantity of emissions that may be released by every business. If a business releases less than its arbitrary limit, then the business may "sell" its unused allotment to another business that has reached its emissions limit. A market is thus created in which businesses buy and sell hot air. Once this system is created, there are numerous opportunities for fines, commissions, discounts, trades, administrative costs, and other mischief.

This idea has been rejected by the Senate three times, primarily because of the enormous cost. It should be rejected again, not only because of the costs, but also because the scheme will have little, if any, impact on changes in global climate.

After a hearing last year, the Senate adopted a "finding" that said: "Greenhouse gases accumulating in the atmosphere are causing average temperatures to rise at a rate outside the range of natural variability...." Unfortunately, this hearing did not include testimony from scientists who have substantial - and growing - evidence to the contrary.

Public policy should be informed by all the relevant information that is available, especially on policies that could easily cost as much as $300 billion per year, and force dramatic life-style changes for every American. Voters must require their Senators to hear from a representative group from the 17,200 scientists who have determined that:

"There is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide, methane, or other greenhouse gasses is causing or will, in the foreseeable future, cause catastrophic heating of the Earth's atmosphere and disruption of the Earth's climate. Moreover, there is substantial scientific evidence that increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide produce many beneficial effects upon the natural plant and animal environments of the Earth."

Any Senator who votes for the Domenici-Bingaman initiative without hearing from these scientists is doing a major disservice to his constituents, and to his country. The Senate finding from the 2005 hearing ignored the substantial body of evidence that persuaded these scientists. Senators must hear both sides of the debate.

Totally aside from the enormous cost, and the absence of scientific justification for implementing a mandatory emissions reduction scheme, is the reality that neither China, nor India will limit their use of fossil fuels. In fact, increasing energy consumption by these two expanding economies will soon pump out more carbon emissions than the United States.

The nations that ratified the Kyoto Protocol are already struggling with the economic impact of their decision, while discovering that their emissions reduction goals are going unmet. China and India, on the other hand, are not saddled with energy consumption restrictions, nor the attendant costs.

Europe's economic engine is sputtering in the global market because of its incredibly heavy tax burden required to supply the services demanded by their socialist systems. The baggage America takes to the global market includes incredibly heavy regulatory costs, which neither China nor India must consider. The Domenici-Bingaman initiative would add even more costs to American business - costs which the competition would not have to pay.

In view of the rising economic challenges from the East, responsible Congressmen ought to be extremely cautious about adding economic burdens to American industry, especially when those burdens bring no tangible benefits, and when a significant portion of the scientific community say that the burdens are completely unnecessary.

By launching the emissions trading scheme, Senators Domenici and Bingaman have joined the likes of Al Gore and other green evangelists, who have adopted the global warming doctrine as an article of faith, rather than a conclusion produced by a systematic analysis of all the scientific evidence. In this election year, voters should require their Congressional candidates to declare themselves on this critical issue - before deciding how to cast their ballot. Elected officials rarely lead until their constituents tell them where they want to go. America doesn't need elected officials who have nothing to offer but hot air.

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


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