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Jessica Meissner , Published January 27 2010

A little honesty about roots of cap and trade is in order

I grew up in Minnesota, not far from Fargo, so The Forum has been a news source my whole life, and by and large the people here are some of the best anywhere in the world – hard-working, honest and innovative. That’s why I was surprised by the inferences made by Phillip Gray (“Clan of dedicated far-left extremists,” Jan. 15) against the free-market mechanism aimed at responsibly reducing carbon emissions called cap and trade and global warming.

We live in a free country, thus we’re all entitled to our own opinions. However, we are not entitled to our own set of facts. Gray’s inference that Heidi Heitkamp and environmentalists are solely responsible for the cap-and-trade emissions reduction mechanism is disingenuous.

Gray must know the cap-and-trade concept was originally created by a large coalition to reduce acid rain (an immense health hazard at the time). That coalition aimed to use a free-market emissions trading design to protect the innovative, capitalist spirit of our business community. The coalition was led by President George H.W. Bush, then-EPA administrator Bill Reilly, and Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell, D-Maine. Cap and trade is not some left-wing socialist master plan, but a carefully crafted embodiment of historically successful compromise and bipartisanship.

The cap-and-trade acid rain program was nearly derailed in the late 1980s by the same misplaced dire predictions that we’re currently seeing as a second major cap-and-trade mechanism is now being proposed – higher energy rates, loss of jobs, high costs to the American people and so on. But what are the undeniable facts, of which there can only be one set?

The Clean Air Act Emissions Trading Program has 1) reduced acid rain by 40 percent; 2) cost one-fourth of predicted cost; and 3) had “the largest quantified human health benefits – more than $70 billion annually – of any major federal regulatory program implemented in the last 10 years” (Congressional Budget Office).

The Economist called it the “greatest green success story of the last decade.” What about those doom-and-gloom predictions for energy rates? Wrong again.

But don’t take my word for it. Look up the Clean Air Act of 1990 and the then-new cap-and-trade program, or just ask Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., because he joined 89 members of the Senate and 490 members of the House in voting “yes” to cap and trade.

Also, if people did their homework, they would see that global warming is real; the ocean temperature is rising and the ice caps are melting, which is only the beginning of the domino effect on the Earth. Again, don’t take my word for it; people should do their own research so they can come up with their own educated opinion.