Endorsing the Waxman-Markey cap and trade bill Friday, Al Gore told the House Energy and Commerce Committee: “I believe this legislation has the moral significance equivalent to that of the civil rights legislation of the 1960’s and the Marshall Plan of the late 1940’s.” Gore went on to warn of global sea level rises of 20 feet and monster Hurricanes. He even blamed recent floods in Fargo, North Dakota and wildfires in California and Australia on global warming.

We have serious doubts about the scientific validity of linking recent hurricanes, wildfires, and floods to global warming (when called out on it, so does Al Gore). But let us concede for the sake of argument that Al Gore is right and global warming caused the flooding in North Dakota and the wildfires in Australia and California. What does the Waxman-Markey bill actually do about it?

After all, the Voting Rights Act greatly increased minority voting in the south. And the Marshall Plan rebuilt Europe. So what would Waxman-Markey accomplish? When the EPA released their report on the bill last week, they did not say. They only provided dubious claims about the costs of the bill. But other studies have estimated what the benefits of a Waxman-Markey like cap and trade regime would be. The result? Nothing. A study by MIT professor John Reilly found that if a Waxman-Markey like scheme worked perfectly, and other developed nations also cut their emissions too (which they have so far failed to do outside of the current global recession), global temperatures would only be reduced by 0.5 degrees Celsius. That is compared to the 0.8 degrees Celsius change we experienced last century.

In other words, Waxman-Markey will not prevent a single flood, wildfire, or hurricane. It will be completely ineffective. And at what cost to the U.S. economy. Newt Gingrich told the House committee Friday: “This bill is an energy tax. An energy tax punishes senior citizens, it punishes rural Americans, if you use electricity it punishes you. This bill will increase your cost of living and may kill your job.” On this point there was strong bipartisan consensus.

  • Rep. Jason Altmire (D-PA): “Any way you do it, it hurts Pennsylvania, especially western Pennsylvania.”
  • Rep. John Boccieri (D-OH): “I’m hearing from a lot of small businesses back at home. I have real concerns about the way [the cap-and-trade draft] is now.”
  • Rep. Baron Hill (D-IN): “The bill in its current form is going to increase the rates for the people I represent.”

So when phrases like “moral significance” pass between Al Gore’s lips, your job is at stake.

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