Sunday, 21 March 2010

McElroy: Impending global warming a welcome relief

By Jack McElroy
Posted March 21, 2010 at midnight
Now is the winter of our discontent made glorious summer by THE SUN!
It's spring today, and a long time coming it was.
If ever there was an argument against global warming it was made this past winter, right?
The "Climategate" scandal broke. It snowed what seemed like every week in Knoxville, and the idea of Al Gore getting an honorary degree from the University of Tennessee sent chilly blasts across the state.
But watch out. Those sneaky academicians and earth-huggers may be down, but they ain't out.
If the health-care issue really does get resolved, we can expect the national debate to swing toward energy policy and climate-change legislation.
Honestly, I have a lot of faith in science, and if the greenhouse effect remains the consensus of the expert researchers, I suspect they're right.
Regardless, does anyone really think pollution is a good thing? Of course not. What we're arguing about is the cost of controlling it.
That's why I'm intrigued by cap and trade.
It's a wonderfully elegant concept.
Pollution emitters spend "credits" allowing them to pollute. If they cut pollution, they can sell their unused credits to heavier polluters.
The idea is that market forces will drive emitters toward efficient ways to be cleaner. In time, as the "cap" on credits goes down, so will emissions.
But how do the smokestack companies get credits to start the system in the first place?
One way is for the government to assign them, but that's likely to be a boondoggle.
A more efficient way would be for the government to auction credits so they're distributed according to real need.
That would mean that utilities and other big polluters would be out a lot of money, though, and they would raise prices to cover their costs. In the end, consumers would be the ones to hand over more money to the government - pretty much like taxes.
Of course, the government could refund all the money right back to the citizens, and everything would be square. That's the approach Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker has advocated.
But when the government has a big pot of money, refunding doesn't seem to spring to mind. People come up with all sorts of ideas about what to do with the dough besides give it back.
Done right, cap-and-trade could help us efficiently become a greener nation. Done wrong, it would create the biggest public trough in history, and the "green" people would be chasing would have little to do with the environment.
Anyway, I'm predicting a period of sharp temperature increases across the Northern Hemisphere over the next several months - and thank goodness.
On an unrelated hot topic, we are introducing a new comic Monday.
"Dustin" is about a 23-year-old "boomerang kid," a college graduate who is unable to find a job and has returned home to live with his industrious parents and younger sister.
The theme may hit uncomfortably close to home for some readers around here, but it also will bring plenty of smiles.
Let me know your opinion at
Jack McElroy is editor of the News Sentinel. He may be reached at 865-342-6300, at or through his blog, The Upfront Page at
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