Opinion Extra

Randolph: Cap and trade will slow economy, raise prices

As Congress continues to pile up debt spending our money at a dizzying pace, another hugely expensive, damaging proposition is hanging over our head.

A "climate change bill" has already passed the House and now awaits debate in the Senate. It would drastically increase America's energy bill. If the president's and Speaker Nancy Pelosi's "cap and trade" initiative passes, Americans will be digging even deeper into their pockets to pay for practically everything.

The cornerstone of the bill would cause energy prices to spike, impacting virtually every business and consumer. Why? About 11 billion tons of freight is hauled annually by trucks. All of us, in some form or fashion, use that freight.

Few people pay much attention to the millions of big rigs working every day, in every corner of the nation. Over the past half century, trucking operations have become the most critical and versatile link in our nation's complex transportation, distribution and logistics systems. Our quality of life, and our international competitiveness, depends on keeping costs down and promoting efficiencies.

Trucking companies typically operate under slim margins, but particularly today. According to the American Trucking Associations, a 1 cent increase in the price of diesel fuel costs the trucking industry an additional $390 million a year. The current climate bill, and its associated fuel cost increases, would have an impact far beyond just forcing many trucking fleets into bankruptcy.

It would directly hit small businesses and families. Gasoline and electricity costs would go up dramatically. A recent analysis of the fallout of this bill by CRA International for the National Black Chamber of Commerce predicts even more pain through the loss of 2.5 million new jobs.

Some groups and policymakers have identified diesel emissions from trucks as one of the reasons for a climate policy. But federal studies find trucking accounts for less than 6 percent of the total carbon emissions in the United States. Methodically, and at great expense, sophisticated truck manufacturers and fuel producers have been successful at reducing levels even more through cleaner burning diesel fuel and engines.

Vilifying trucking operations is like cutting our nose off to spite our face. Even BMW is touting the power and efficiency of new diesel engine technology. Clean diesel is what is driving the world economy.

Passage of the climate bill is exactly the wrong recipe for a nation still reeling economically. Climate change should be addressed, but properly. For the moment, as a nation, we have much more pressing priorities, such as unemployment and budgeting.

Energy is the one commodity we cannot do without. And while some lawmakers proselytize about the importance of changing energy policy to account for climate change, the reality is that this nation is not in a position to absorb the financial burden of such a proposal - not now, not this way.

Our U.S. senators hold the keys now. For all of our best interests, let us hope they will take their foot off the gas pedal and look around before choosing to shift this debate into high gear.