America will pay with cap and trade

MCT News ServicePresident Barack Obama makes remarks on energy last month at the White House.

The U.S. House of Representatives recently passed major “cap-and-trade” legislation that aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2050.

But before lawmakers move on to the next hot issue (health reform? a second stimulus? Michael Jackson?), they need to give this legislation a makeover. If this version of cap and trade becomes law, we all will be paying for a wrongheaded bailout for Mother Nature.

The bill that passed the House just before lawmakers ran off for Fourth of July vacation is a stuffed turkey — about 1,500 pages in the end.

It goes well beyond setting federal energy policy. It would force states to meet targets for use of renewable energy such as wind and solar power.

It even would make rules for homeowners associations, which could no longer ban installation of rooftop solar panels.

The only thing more excessive than this bill’s ambition is its price tag.

The Congressional Budget Office predicts the average household will pay $175 a year in extra utility costs.

Outside groups say the bill’s per-household cost will be much greater, as much as $3,000 annually.

Why the expense? The bill pours billions of dollars into investments for clean coal, hybrid vehicles and nuclear power, to name a few.

There are arguments for increased federal spending in some of these areas, but not when they are tossed casually into much larger legislation.

The bigger drag on the economy will come as energy producers are forced to buying the rights to release carbon dioxide and other pollutants.

The concept makes sense, yet the aggressive 80 percent target means that utilities like Consumers Energy will be forced to make expensive investments on a government timetable. Or they will pay a premium for scarce emission permits.

Either way, homeowners and businesses will pay greatly.

The bill’s backers say jobs will be created as new energy technologies take root, yet they fail to account for the collateral damage to the U.S. economy.

Drastically higher energy prices will push companies to relocate out of the country or pass along their costs to customers if they do stay.

The public should demand less meddling, particularly as states, local governments, businesses and households all are moving to help the environment.

Michigan lawmakers adopted an energy bill last year that forces Consumers and other utilities to create more energy from the wind and sun. And they did it without Washington breathing down their necks.

What makes more sense now is for the Senate to scrap this legislation in favor of a more moderate version of this bill later.

Or if the Senate acts on its own version, perhaps House members like our own U.S. Rep. Mark Schauer — who voted for this bill — will change course and vote no.

Congress has a role in protecting the environment.

But in the case of greenhouse gases, its role should be to nudge people toward more responsible behavior.

This cap-and-trade bill is more than a nudge. For the nation’s economy, it is a push off the cliff.

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