'A wholesale transformation'

Most Americans consider themselves friends of the environment. They don't litter; they try to conserve. Given the chance, they'll sort their trash in an effort to contribute to recycling.

Told that Earth is in a warming trend and the results could be bad, they show an admirable participatory spirit. They want to do something.

But just as the advocates of big government are past masters at harnessing Americans' charitable instincts, so does a new generation of bureaucrats and politicians now aim to use Americans' warm feelings about "environmentalism" to consolidate even more power in Washington.

"Something must be done!" shriek those who insist that the warming of the Earth at the rate of 1 or 2 degrees per century is responsible for every current bad outcome, from droughts to hurricanes to forest fires -- and that it's somehow in our power to reverse this trend.

But what? What is it they want done?

"All of the leading Democratic contenders for the presidency are committed to a set of cuts in greenhouse gas emissions that would change the way Americans light their homes, fuel their automobiles and do their jobs, costing billions of dollars in the short term," The Washington Post reported this week.

And all this will "require a wholesale transformation of the nation's economy and society."

What will this look like? What will it cost, and who will pay?

According to energy expert Tracy Terry's analysis of a recent Massachusetts Institute of Technology study, under the scenario of an 80 percent reduction in emissions from 1990 levels, by 2015 Americans could be paying 30 percent more for natural gas in their homes, and even more for electricity, The Post reports. "At the same time, the cost of coal could quadruple and crude oil prices could rise by an additional $24 a barrel."

That means gasoline at well over $4 per gallon, and a likely doubling of your electric bill. And these are the low-ball estimates of those who favor these heavy-handed, job-slashing industrial cutbacks.

Democrats "have promised to ease the pain by taking the money that would come from putting a price on carbon, whether through a tax or auctioning off pollution credits, and investing it in technological research, job training, tax credits for consumers who buy cleaner vehicles and subsidies for those hit hardest by rising electric bills," the Post reports.

Just how much "pain" -- how hard a "hit" -- are we talking about?

Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., the one Democrat so far to come out in public for a direct carbon tax, "has vowed to use the $50 billion that would be generated each year to fast-track research, development and deployment of renewable and energy-efficient technologies," The Post reports

Now, if someone wanted to raise $50 billion to build more coal-fired power plants or emission-free nuclear power plants to decrease our dependence on foreign oil, that would be one thing. If someone wanted to see $50 billion invested in exploring for and developing new oil fields in Alaska or in the Gulf of Mexico to decrease our dependence on imported oil, that would be another.

But Democrats are not proposing to "invest" all these additional funds to give us faster growth with cheaper energy. No. Their long-term goal is to make us survive on less energy, and pay a lot more for what little our ration cards will still allow us to use.

"Democrats' boldness ... could carry a political price," the Post warns. "The eventual GOP presidential nominee is almost certain to attack Democrats over the huge costs associated with limiting emissions."

Claiming to be green and donating a few thousand dollars to pay some outfit to plant trees to "compensate" for the amounts of kerosene their campaign planes burn as they fly around the country is all very nice.

But as the brownouts become more frequent, as our electric bills climb along with highway death tolls in the little tin-foil cars Detroit has to build -- as our economic well-being continues to decline in contrast to the booming economies of India and China, which continue to burn all the dirty coal they please -- is "Turn out the lights, we're the Democrats!" really likely to prove a winning campaign slogan in the early 21st century?