Image"They must be cheering..."

That's what my buddy Al (of Al's Coffee Shop) said as I stopped by on a recent chilly morning in Northern Virginia.

"Who's cheering?" I asked. "Don't tell me Obama has addressed another Grecian Temple extravaganza. Oh man! Not the heroic Styrofoam columns again. I can't stand it..."

"No," said Al. "I'm talking about officials and savvy industrialists in places like India and China. They must be drinking champagne tonight - or whatever they drink over there."

"Why not coffee?" I asked, holding up an empty cup. "But what's the big event, that those two countries should be celebrating it?"

"They know we're going to lose the great global trade war, and they're going to win," said Al. "They've got it in the bag. We're knocked out of the game. We've had it."

"But who knocked us out? And how did they do it?" I asked, as I sipped my cup of Extra Robust Columbian Espresso (with triple caffeine). "Surely it couldn't have happened all at once. What's going on?"

"We've done it to ourselves," said Al. "Obama has announced his Cap and Trade plan to control carbon dioxide emissions and stop climate-change. Smokestack industries are going to pay big bucks to keep on burning coal or oil. Power is going to get much more expensive. Of course, the cost will be passed on to consumers in higher prices. Products from India and China will beat our stuff because they'll be cheaper. We'll get our butts handed to us in international trade."

"But won't India and China have to pay those higher ‘carbon taxes', too?" I asked. "Isn't the fight against climate change an international struggle? I thought the USA was the last holdout, and the whole rest of the world was already on board. We've got to cool the planet down right now! Al Gore says it may already be too late."

"Does this look like we're roasting?" asked Al - waving at the snow piled up by the curbs. (The temperature had been 12º that morning.) "Al Gore is crazy. Late-night comedians are starting to crack wise about the Gore Effect. (Every time he addresses a global warming confab, there's record cold or a blizzard.) The climate hasn't warmed in 12 years. In fact, it's cooled in the last five. The Antarctic ice cap is growing. We don't need to do anything to cool off. The planet is doing it naturally, just like it has done countless times over millions of years. There's even talk about a new ice age, like in the late 1970s.

"No, China and India won't be paying any ‘carbon taxes.' What they're paying is no attention to Al Gore's global warming rubbish. They're just gearing up as fast as they can to manufacture and sell. We've knocked ourselves out. Europe is in the process of knocking itself out, too. The world is being run by idiots! China and India will be the last ones standing."

After I left Al's place, I did some checking on warming and climate change. I found that he was right. The climate hasn't warmed since 1998, and by some measures has actually cooled. Deep-ocean sensors show that a slight cooling has taken place during the last five years. Another very cold winter in the Northern Hemisphere has produced record snowfalls and cold temperatures.

Scientists are coming round to the sun's activity-level as the major influence on our planet's temperature, with high sunspot-activity corresponding to warmer eras and low sunspot-activity corresponding to cooler eras. This relationship between sunspots and Earth's temperatures has long been theorized. A period known as the Maunder Minimum (AD 1645-1715), featuring extremely low sunspot activity, was an exceptionally cold period in the so-called Little Ice Age (AD 1350-1850). The LIA followed a warm period called the Medieval Warm Period (AD 900 to 1350). Carbon dioxide emissions produced by human activity clearly played no part in either era. Scientists have determined - via tree rings and ice core samples - that Earth's climate has changed numerous times over thousands of years. Human activity had no role in the changes.

During the last years of George W. Bush's administration, a conviction formed on both sides of the political aisle that the global warming and/or climate change science was "settled." It is claimed that a scientific "consensus" has been reached. This ignores the fact that in science a consensus is neither here nor there. (There was once a "consensus" that the world was flat.) Only evidence can "prove" a theory.

Computer models predict warmer temperatures a century from now, but these predictions are not evidence. Old model builders (like Yours Truly) know that models are deeply dependent on correct technical premises and data for their own accuracy. Thus far, models have not been able to predict today's climate by plugging in data from the past. This makes their accuracy suspect.

Mr. Obama was elected on his promise of decisive action to control carbon dioxide emissions from cars and industrial plants - or possibly in spite of it. His new "cap and trade" plan, just announced, follows through. The issue was not a political discriminator in the election, since Republican Candidate John McCain also advocated essentially the same plan. Some political analysts believe Mr. McCain's failure to furnish an alternate posture on this issue cost him the support of many conservative voters who do not accept Al Gore's scare-arama scenario.

Cap and trade means that big emitters of CO2 will have to buy permits so they can exceed their emissions quotas. Other companies that emit less CO2 can sell some of their permits. Thus, emissions would be "capped" by the federal government, and the allowances "traded" among industries, like securities. An exchange market would spring up to handle the transactions.

It's not hard to see that this will increase costs for industries that burn fuel. One can envision speculators "cornering the market" on emissions indulgences and driving their price up. The depressing effect this might have on business helps explain why the US stock market has gone into free-fall, with the Dow Industrial Average crashing through 7,000 and heading for 6,000 in recent days - territory not seen since the 1990s.

Journalists captivated by the "drama" of reforming American industry in this way tend to accept the claims of Al Gore and other climate-activists uncritically. Indeed, the Mainstream Media have tried to isolate skeptics as "cranks" who won't accept the "settled science" of the glorious "save the planet" crusade. This means the vigorous debate that should be going on over these proposed major new costs to American industry - for which very little will be gained in return - has not been happening. With new government regulations being drafted, and powerful new agencies being planned, no one is asking how much all this will cost and who will end up paying the bill.

My buddy Al was right about the emerging manufacturing giants, India and China, too. They clearly have no intention of crippling their burgeoning industrial base with costly measures to diminish their carbon dioxide emissions. Politicians and scientists from those countries do not consider CO2 a pollutant. Nor do they accept Al Gore's predictions. However, some of them are urging the West to diminish their own emissions. Obviously they see the advantage of tying up their competitors with climate-concerns, while they ignore them.

In truth, Americans are vastly confused about carbon dioxide because climate scaremongers have deliberately mixed the issue of CO2 emissions in with the issue of pollution. Most citizens (including this writer) are opposed to pollution. But CO2 is not a pollutant. It is a natural (actually minor) component of air. As shown in the table below, even argon is more abundant in air than CO2. (Argon, helium, neon and xenon are inert natural elements that cannot react chemically with any other substances, except at extreme temperatures or pressures.)

                                                Components of Air

Gas

% by volume

% by weight

Nitrogen

78.08

75.47

Oxygen

20.95

23.20

Argon

0.93

1.28

Carbon Dioxide

0.038

0.0590

Neon

0.0018

0.0012

Helium

0.0005

0.00007

Krypton

0.0001

0.0003

Hydrogen

0.00005

negligible

Xenon

Trace

Trace

 

The true pollutants are gasses like sulfur dioxide (SO2), sulfur oxide (SO), nitrous oxide (NO), and nitrogen dioxide (NO2), as well as suspended particulate matter from soot and various metals. Most of these have largely been eliminated from manufacturing and internal combustion engines via technology mandated by legislation already in place. NO2 and NO, in particular, were produced via oxidation of nitrogen from the air by the operation of high-compression automobile engines. In the 1970s, this resulted in the brown smog that overhung many American cities. The platinum-based catalytic converter largely eliminated these pollutants.

The central question about carbon dioxide and how Mr. Obama's cap-and-trade policies will affect the economy, is this: Why take a chance like this when things are financially so dicey for the country?

Lacking specific information, one can only speculate and ask more questions. Is the president pushing this out of ignorance? Does he really believe a massive number of "green" jobs will flow from the carbon-effort, replacing jobs lost by constricting our industries? Or does he not care what happens?

To find the answer, we consult a personage no less lofty than Rahm Emanuel, Mr. Obama's White House Chief of Staff. It was Mr. Emanuel who famously said a crisis should never be "wasted," as it enables things that the public would not accept in any other context. Mr. Obama has been using the country's economic crisis as his premise for lavish - even riotous - spending on a scale beyond anything Republicans ever did. Despite the tally of deficits up in the trillions, as far as the eye can see, Mr. Obama's positive ratings are ranging higher than ever - nearly 70% positive in some recent polls. The economic news grows grimmer by the week, but Mr. Obama can do no wrong. Clearly, Mr. Emanuel's assessment is spot-on.

The Rule of Crisis being evidently vindicated, does it not make sense to prolong a crisis as much as possible, thereby enabling adoption of the most radical political agenda in American history? Is Mr. Obama's government deliberately making statements and taking actions that drive the economy and stock market down? How else to explain their insistence that taxes must be raised on top income-earners, when experience shows that the precise opposite is the move most likely to make the economy and the markets bounce back? Why else threaten industry with draconian new carbon-taxes when it needs all the help it can get?

The Grassy Knoll Club is filled with nonagenarians dozing in easy chairs, while visions of conspiracies dance in their fevered brains. Maybe I'll be one of them, some day. I know this economy-crashing idea is an outrageous theory. Really, what American president would deliberately drive down the country's economy and rob its citizens of their private wealth just so a political agenda can be enacted? I don't insist on the point, but it does look a little suspicious.

Of course, Mr. Obama could just be incompetent. As President Carter showed, incompetence at a high enough level can look like a conspiracy. Normally, I would counsel that we wait and see, but I don't know if we have time to do that in this case. Raising some hell might be better. I urge my readers to get busy. It can't hurt, and it's better than sitting around watching the stock-ticker.