Someone please answer that question.

Let’s start with this: a new study from the University of Wisconsin-Madison finds that food and energy demand will outpace production to meet those needs over the next several years. The need for greater energy and food production and the jobs that could be created from seeking to meet that need is just the latest example of the opportunity costs associated with cap and trade.

One might imagine that these increased energy demands would create a huge economic opening for American firms to fill a gap in demand and address a desperate need borne heavily by the world’s poor. Instead, Congress is devising a regulatory scheme that will severely disadvantage almost all American firms as they compete to provide the best solutions to emerging world problems.

The Wall Street Journal was onto something when they said yesterday that the legislation requires little short of “destroy[ing] the discipline of economics.” Cap and trade results in immediate job losses to manufacturing, construction, and other major sectors of the economy, but that’s not the end of the story. It will also significantly constrain U.S. firms in taking advantage of opportunities for growth through enormous new regulatory hurdles, not to mention skyrocketing energy costs that will raise the cost of investing in new capital projects. Knowing this, the cap and trade bill evolved into a convoluted, lobbyist-constructed bill:

“Industries and individual companies with a stake in the landmark House climate and energy bill poured money into lobbying early this year, many at a pace that could shatter previous spending records. They worked to reshape the bill. They have focused on votes, pressuring moderates, freshman and any lawmaker considered an ally. They are now in a last-gasp effort to push anyone left on the fence.

From oil and gas companies to environmentalists, sectors with energy interests this year hired and added lobbyists. Some pushed to make pending climate legislation stronger. Others wanted wording to soften the financial blow of regulation of greenhouse gas emissions.”

Now everyone, including Greenpeace, is expressing opposition to the Waxman-Markey cap and trade bill. Ironically, many of the same companies hired lobbyists to help shape the bill, but receiving handouts in the short-term does not mask the significant amount of economic pain these firms will face in subsequent years. And what did all this all this money spent on lobbying actually buy these firms? In all likelihood, they’re buying into a country with far less economic potential, which will force these companies to shed jobs and be less productive than they could otherwise have been.

The only ones who aren’t represented are the consumers, who will feel the most pain from the bill, seeing their electricity prices rise 90 percent by 2035.

These companies will come to the realization that jobs are going to disappear. Instead of producing domestically, companies will seize onto these opportunities by sending jobs overseas to places without cap-and-trade type regulations. Given that energy production there will continue likely continue at a higher rate to displace the decline in U.S. production, carbon emissions may end up increasing overall, even if emissions drop in the U.S. So all considered, cap-and-trade gives us: lost jobs today, lost jobs tomorrow, and a change in the temperature too small to notice.