In quick-and-dirty layman's terms, cap and trade refers to emissions trading.
Here is how it works. The government allows everybody to pollute a certain amount. If your business pollutes the air/water/land more than the amount the government has allowed, you have to buy the allowance that is owned by someone else. (See -- the government "caps" the amount you can pollute and if you go over the cap you have to "trade" with someone else.) Companies that operate in industries that pollute very little will have extra pollution credits and they can sell them to big, bad polluters.
Before we go on, let's remember that since the EPA began measuring such things, our air, water, and land have never been cleaner. We live in about as pristine an environment as it is possible to live in and still enjoy civilized inventions like electricity and automobiles.
Okay. Where was I? Oh, yeah. Big, bad polluters. Well, unluckily for us, many of the companies who will run afoul of the pollution police are energy companies. Since we're not big on nuclear power over here, most of our energy comes from fossil fuels. In a bizarre twist, a court has decided that carbon dioxide (you know -- the stuff you're exhaling right now!...and right now!...and right now!) is a pollutant. Fossil fuels emit CO2 (you know -- Al Gore, Inconvenient Truth, drowning polar bears), so the companies that create your electricity and your gasoline "pollute" more than the government says they should. They will have to buy the carbon credits that belong to someone else. And guess who will ultimately pay for this?
If you guessed "The Consumer" you may stop holding your breath and exhale.
But wait! Didn't I just say that Harry Reid & Co. are probably not going to pass any cap-and-trade legislation this year? Well, yes. Yes, I did. But that's okay. Because the courts have decided that the EPA doesn't have to wait for Congress. They can start regulating CO2 just as soon as they see fit.
Just the other day I was thinking, "Boy, my electric bill is just way too low. I think I will send an extra hundred bucks along to Alabama Power next month to show my support for their fine work!"
Okay, I wasn't saying anything like that. In fact, I was kind of shocked when I saw our power bill (Bruce and Alex, who walk around in sweaters and can be heard muttering things about meat lockers will be less surprised). Our federal government, however, is going to