When the U.S. House of Representatives voted in June of 2009 to approve the “American Clean Energy and Security Act,” better known as the Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade bill, the media reacted with a flurry of analyses and commentary. Unfortunately, most of what was published and/or broadcast was woefully superficial.

In retrospect, that is not surprising; it is difficult to dissect legislation of that length – more than a thousand pages, with scores of amendments – in the brief time typically allotted for reports on TV newscasts or in the limited space available in most of the print media.

Moreover, much of the mainstream news media – usually so eager to be critical in their self-appointed role as watchdogs ever alert for governmental mendacity — welcomed this legislation with expressions of praise and relief. Much of the commentary was along the lines of “at long last the U.S. is doing something about global warming and climate change.”

As a result, except in the Wall Street Journal and a few other news outlets, there was relatively little of the usual reporting about the influential role that special interests and their lobbyists played in shaping this legislation in committee. Worse, discussion of Waxman-Markey soon was almost totally eclipsed by the headline-grabbing nationwide debate about health care.

Meanwhile, a key committee in the U.S. Senate has passed its own version of cap-and-trade legislation. That bill, cosponsored by Sens. John Kerry and Barbara Boxer, includes features that are arguably more problematic than WaxmanMarkey. However, it is widely expected that the better known House version is likely to be the baseline for whatever eventually emerges from a House-Senate conference.

Inasmuch as this landmark legislation is also likely to be a turning point for energy policy and, thus, for the U.S. economy, it is likely that entire books eventually will be written about its long-term impact for good or ill. Will it spare us a climate catastrophe or cause an economic disaster? The jury is still out.

Meanwhile, before Congress takes final action – and before individual states such as Florida take similar action on their own – this approach’s potential impact deserves a much more detailed analysis than the media have provided thus far. That is what this concise study by Beacon Hill Institute scholar Paul Bachman endeavors to provide. Using well-accepted computer modeling methodology, Mr. Bachman outlines the potential economic impact on the nation as a whole and to Florida in particular. It is a sobering analysis.

Read the Backgrounder here.