It isn't so much global warming as political heat that's driving the hurried vote on the "cap and trade" emissions legislation now before Congress.
Democrats simply want to strike while the iron's hot.
In the process, they risk untold damage to the economy while rushing to "save" the environment. The truth is, nobody truly knows what effect the legislation will have on small businesses especially.
Meanwhile, you have to wonder if we're endangering our economy unilaterally: Big polluters such as China and India are taking no such self-limiting steps to reduce emissions.
We have no problem with wanting to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Our position on global warming is that the science isn't as settled as the left would have you believe -- but that reasonable steps to reduce pollution are a good idea regardless.
The question is whether the bill will be reasonable. There are questions as to whether Washington is trying to reduce emissions too much too quickly. And proposed caps on CO2 emissions are several times more stringent than similar caps in Europe.
Moreover, any damage we do to ourselves will be at the expense of an already battered economy.
We have long pined for a coherent energy policy. Despite fears over global warming, concerns over fuel cost spikes and that infamous electrical blackout in New York, President George W. Bush did next to nothing to provide leadership on the future of national energy policy.
But it seems we are trying to accelerate from 0 to 60 in seconds. We applaud the Obama administration for trying to create an energy policy -- but has it been debated enough in Congress or vetted enough publicly? How many people on the street are conversant in what cap and trade means, much less what it will do?
Essentially, what it means is that the government will decide how much CO2 a particular business can emit. If the business is over that limit, it can buy pollution credits from businesses that have excess to spare. Thus, the "trade" portion of cap and trade.
What it will do is beyond anyone's ability to predict. Some fear it will simply be a tax on consumers, who end up paying businesses' costs anyway. Some say it will drive even more businesses overseas.
And won't this put the federal government in the position of trading a new commodity -- pollution permits? Such trading has proved maddeningly volatile in Europe.
Nor has America fully explored the pitfalls of cap and trade that our friends in Europe have already fallen into. According to The Washington Post, an already green Netherlands company -- Kollo Holding -- has found it necessary in recent years to shut down part of the time to save money on utilities, which cost more under cap and trade, and even had to lay off workers. The company also has lost customers to Chinese imports that are unencumbered by cap-and-trade costs.
"Of all the effects of the new rules, the rise in the price of power has aroused the most outrage," the Post says.
That should be a huge red flag, especially in the Southeast U.S., where power has been plentiful and affordable.
Georgia Power, and its parent Southern Co., are on the cutting edge of research and development into cleaner fuels. Its Plant Mitchell near Albany is being converted from coal to 100 percent biomass. And the company is working closely with the Department of Energy to research and develop ways to capture CO2 and store it deep underground.
The thing is, these things take time. And unlike Washington politicians, scientists must be absolutely certain of what they're doing before they do it.
In this case, it's essential that Congress do the same.