Oct. 20, 2014 SIGN IN | REGISTER

The Costs of the Cap-and-Trade Bill

But all these bad aspects of the Waxman-Markey bill pale before its potential impact on the world’s food supply. America’s agricultural sector is one of the greatest success stories in human history. In 1930, hunger still stalked the entire globe. Not just in Africa, India and China, but even in Europe and America, the struggle to simply get enough food to live on still preoccupied billions of people. Since 1930, the world population has tripled. But instead of going hungrier, people nearly everywhere are now eating much better. This miracle is the work of American farmers, who have not only produced huge surpluses to feed the world, but used the income gained from such good work to pioneer ever more advanced techniques that have enabled farmers everywhere to grow more. This progress is still continuing. In 2007, Iowa alone produced more corn than the entire United States did in 1947, and the 300,000 American corn growers as a whole produced 784 billion pounds of corn, an amount sufficient to supply 130 pounds of corn per year to every person on the planet. But this miracle depends upon the availability of cheap fertilizer and pesticides, which in turn require carbon-based process energy to produce. If you tax carbon, you tax fertilizer and pesticides. If you tax these things, you tax food, and by no small amount. A $15/ton CO2 tax would increase fertilizer production costs directly by about $60/ton, with the cap-and-trade bill’s increased transport costs inflating the burden still more. That’s enough to make many farmers use less fertilizer, and less fertilizer means less food.To get a sense of what it would mean for farmers to abandon fertilizer, it is only necessary to go to the supermarket and compare the price of the “organic” produce, grown without chemical fertilizer, to the regular produce, which, while just as nutritious, typically costs less than half as much. It is one thing for wealthy organic food buffs to voluntarily pay such high prices for their food — that is their right. But to impose such costs for basic groceries on everyone else, and particularly the poor, as part of a largely symbolic effort to try to change the weather, is self-indulgent in the extreme.In the 220 years of our republic, there may have been worse pieces of legislation enacted by Congress than the Waxman-Markey bill, but none readily comes to mind. The Senate needs to take a stand and stop this disastrous act from passing into law.Robert Zubrin is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

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