Friday, August 28, 2009

Tragic Tales From The NHS


By INVESTOR'S BUSINESS DAILY | Posted Thursday, August 27, 2009 4:20 PM PT

Health Care Reform: A study by the British Patients Association tells the true story about socialized medicine in Britain. It's one of willful and woeful neglect of millions, missed diagnoses, and elderly patients left in pain.

IBD Exclusive Series: Government-Run Healthcare: A Prescription For Failure

While reading this disturbing analysis of the pitiful state of medical care in Britain in the Daily Telegraph, the Vincent Price horror classic "The Abominable Dr. Phibes" came to mind. Price portrayed a man who used bizarre methods to dispatch his victims.

The abominable British National Health Service, based on this report, is only slightly better.

The Patients Association's primary focus was the Mid-Staffordshire NHS Health Trust, where it was found that up to 1,200 people died through failings in urgent care the past six years. Their analysis was prompted by an avalanche of complaints of shameful care at the hands of the NHS.

Claire Rayner, president of the group and a former nurse, said: "For far too long now, the Patients Association has been receiving calls on our help line from people wanting to talk about the dreadful, neglectful, demeaning, painful and sometimes downright cruel treatment their elderly relatives had experienced at the hands of NHS nurses."

There was the case of 82-year-old piano teacher Pamela Goddard. She was suffering from cancer and was left to suffer in her excrement as her condition deteriorated due to bed sores.

Before Florence Weston died at age 85, she remained without food or water as her scheduled hip replacement operation was repeatedly canceled.

Katherine Murphy, director of the Patients Association, said: "If this was extrapolated to the whole of the NHS from 2002 to 2008 it would equate to over 1 million patients. Very often these are the most vulnerable elderly and terminally ill patients. It is a sad indictment of the care they receive."

Daniel Bates at England's Daily Mail newspaper reported on one of our favorite examples of the glories of socialized medicine. He wrote about Mark Wattson, who after weeks of excruciating pain was happy to get his appendix removed — or so he thought. Doctors told him the operation was a success and sent him home.

Bates wrote: "Only a month later the 35-year-old collapsed in agony and had to be taken back to Great Western Hospital in Swindon by ambulance. To his shock, surgeons from the same team told him that not only was his appendix still inside him, but it had ruptured — a potentially fatal complication." Oops.

Under the NHS system, according to an analysis by the Rare Cancers Forum printed in the Daily Telegraph, about 1,000 victims of rare forms of cancer were denied drug treatment the past three years. Reason? NHS bureaucrats had not licensed them for their particular form of cancer.

Stella Pendleton, executive director of the charity, said: "The NHS is forcing desperate patients into the cruel situation where the chances of their being given the treatment they need depend on where they live. No patient should be denied a treatment recommended by a doctor simply because the cancer it treats is too rare for the medicine to be licensed."

The Daily Mail reports that thousands of British women are forced to give birth outside maternity wards due to a shortage of midwives and hospital beds. Some 4,000 women last year, up 15% from the year before, were forced to give birth in places ranging from elevators to toilets, putting the lives of mothers and babies at risk.

Meanwhile, it has been reported that up to one-third of health care trusts in Britain are importing doctors from as far away as Poland, Lithuania, Germany, Hungary, Italy and Switzerland because of a shortage of doctors willing to work in the evenings and on weekends.

An increasing number of British patients are being treated by exhausted foreign doctors with a poor command of English. Alarms went off after a German doctor brought in with just three hours of sleep had two patients die on his first shift in Britain.

Nigerian-born Dr. Daniel Ubani had just three hours' sleep after traveling from Germany to a shift in Cambridgeshire. He injected 70-year-old kidney patient David Gray with 10 times the recommended dose of morphine, and an 86-year-old woman died of a heart attack after Dr. Ubani failed to send her to a hospital.

Three days after Health Secretary Andrew Burnham falsely claimed on the BBC, "We have no waiting lists now in the NHS, and people have full choice of NHS hospitals," it was revealed that the government's own figures show that 236,316 people are waiting more than 18 weeks for a range of treatments, including oral surgery, rheumatology and basic geriatric medicine.

It's no surprise then to discover that while breast cancer in America has a 25% mortality rate, in Britain it's almost double at 46%. Prostate cancer is fatal to 19% of American men who get it. In Britain it kills 57% of those it strikes. We are not making this up.

These are not cherry-picked stories, but rather daily life under the NHS. In the U.S., trial lawyers would have a field day as demands mounted for such deaths to stop until the system was overhauled.

As we said a week ago, this is what inevitably happens under all forms of socialized medicine.

No wonder that Daniel Hannan, a member of the European Parliament from Britain, has called the NHS a "60-year mistake" and encouraged "Americans to ponder our example and tremble."

When asked about ObamaCare on Fox News, Hannan said: "I find it incredible that a free people living in a country dedicated and founded in the cause of independence and freedom can seriously be thinking about adopting such a system."

And President Obama says it is our system that's unsustainable. We have seen the future of health care, and it doesn't work.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Vive Le French Care?


By INVESTOR'S BUSINESS DAILY | Posted Wednesday, August 26, 2009 4:20 PM PT

Health Systems: Health care in France is often held up as a model the U.S. might follow. Yet the French have their own problems that show there's no such thing as a free lunch — or a free doctor's visit.

IBD Exclusive Series: Government-Run Healthcare: A Prescription For Failure

Call it the grass-is-greener syndrome. Advocates of national health care, acknowledging the flaws in ObamaCare yet despising the current U.S. system that has the best medicines, the best medical equipment and the shortest waiting lists, have turned their eyes lovingly to places like France.

As City Journal contributing editor Guy Sorman notes, the French would also love to have the low-cost, high-service system some Americans gush about. Unfortunately, they don't. France's system isn't that cheap and is financed by high taxes on labor that have heavy economic consequences.

Sorman notes that a Frenchman making a monthly salary of 3,000 euros has 350 of them deducted for health insurance. Then the employer throws in an additional 1,200 euros. This raises the cost of labor to prohibitive levels and puts a brake on economic growth. This helps explain why French unemployment hovers around 10%.

France imposes an additional tax levy to cover the constant deficits that national health insurance runs.

The French Parliament raises this levy, which applies to all forms of income, every year. Altogether, Sorman writes, "25% of French national income goes toward what's called Social Security, which includes health care and basic retirement pensions for all."

Drugs developed in America at enormous expense do cost less in France, which decides what drugs are to be used and at what prices. American patients in effect subsidize the French, who take the same pills at half the price because American pharmaceutical companies don't want to lose the French market.

French taxpayers fund a state health insurer, Assurance Maladie. Assurance Maladie has run in the red since 1989, and this year's shortfall is expected to be 9.4 billion euros ($13.5 billion) and 15 billion euros in 2010, about 10% of its budget.

Regardless of the cost, does the French system produce better outcomes? Not always. Infant mortality rates are often cited as a reason socialized medicine and single-payer systems are better than what we have here. But according to Dr. Linda Halderman, a policy adviser in the California State Senate, these comparisons are bogus.

Official World Health Organization statistics show the U.S. lagging behind France in infant mortality rates — 6.7 per 1,000 live births vs. 3.8 for France. Halderman notes that in the U.S., any infant born that shows any sign of life for any length of time is considered a live birth. In France — in fact, in most of the European Union — any baby born before 26 weeks' gestation is not considered alive and therefore doesn't "count" in reported infant mortality rates.

France reimburses its doctors at a far lower rate than U.S. physicians would accept.

As David Gratzer, a physician and senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, wrote in the summer 2007 issue of City Journal: "In France, the supply of doctors is so limited that during an August 2003 heat wave — when many doctors were on vacation and hospitals were stretched beyond capacity — 15,000 elderly citizens died."

After the tragedy, the French parliament released a harshly worded report blaming the deaths on a complex health system, widespread failure among agencies and health services to coordinate efforts, and chronically insufficient care for the elderly.

It's hard to imagine that happening here, where hospitals have enough air-conditioned beds and doctors that aren't on vacation.

Fact is, most Americans like their health care. There are ways to provide expanded coverage at lower cost, such as pushing individually owned health savings accounts, malpractice reform and allowing insurance to be bought across state lines.

We needn't be forced to sacrifice quality for cost. Nor do we need to look to the French for a better solution. They don't have one.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Edward Kennedy dies at 77; 'liberal lion of the Senate' By Rich Simon and Claudia Luther

The Massachusetts Democrat was the last surviving son in a legendary political family. He was diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2008.


August 26, 2009

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, the Massachusetts Democrat and icon of American liberal politics who was the last surviving brother of a legendary political family, died late Tuesday at his home in Hyannis Port, Mass., his family announced. He was 77.

Kennedy had been in declining health since having a seizure in May 2008. Subsequent tests determined that he had a malignant brain tumor.

Kennedy had not been to the Capitol since April, missing the passage in June of his groundbreaking measure to regulate tobacco. In July, he could not participate in the drafting of healthcare legislation in his role as chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.

He did not attend the funeral for his sister, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, who died Aug. 11, or a White House ceremony during which he was awarded a Presidential Medal of Freedom.

"We've lost the irreplaceable center of our family and joyous light in our lives, but the inspiration of his faith, optimism, and perseverance will live on in our hearts forever," his family said in a statement.

A popular figure on both sides of the aisle in the Senate, Kennedy electrified his colleagues in July 2008 when he appeared briefly to vote on a measure to stave off a cut in Medicare fees to doctors who treat seniors, military personnel and their families and others. The measure passed on a 69-30 vote.

Kennedy was greeted with a wild reception from the party faithful in August 2008 on the first night of the Democratic National Convention in Denver. He addressed the gathering in a strong, steady voice, predicting that "this November, the torch will be passed to a new generation of Americans," a reference to Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, who was elected president three months later. Kennedy's endorsement of Obama in January 2008 was credited as an important validation of the senator's bid to win the nomination against Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York.

"The Kennedy family and the Senate family have together lost our patriarch," Harry Reid, the Senate's Democratic leader, said in a statement.

Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the House, also expressed her sorrow in a statement. "Senator Kennedy had a grand vision for America, and an unparalleled ability to effect change," she said.

As the standard-bearer for the liberal wing of the Democratic Party, the square-jawed "Ted" or "Teddy" Kennedy believed in government's ability to help solve people's problems, and over the decades he learned how to wield power in the Senate to move the government in that direction. He found numerous ways to work with Republican administrations and senators to fashion significant legislation on issues he cared deeply about.

Kennedy became a national figure after his brothers, President John F. Kennedy and presidential hopeful Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, were assassinated in the 1960s. Many Americans still yearned for a Kennedy who could occupy the White House, and they looked to the youngest of the Kennedy brothers to fulfill those hopes.

But his public image and political fortunes suffered an indelible stain on July 18, 1969, when he drove his Oldsmobile off a bridge into the water on Chappaquiddick Island in Massachusetts. He survived without serious injury, but his female passenger, 28-year-old Mary Jo Kopechne, died. In a lapse of judgment that was never fully explained, Kennedy sought the help of friends and advisors and delayed reporting the accident to police for 10 hours.

Nothing he did afterward could wipe out the public memory of that lapse. Though he filled his life with decades of work for progressive causes, and though he became the beloved patriarch of his large and often troubled family, his behavior following the incident at Chappaquiddick still held the power to stun.

Partly because of lingering questions about his actions and his relationship with Kopechne, Kennedy did not run for president in 1972 and 1976. In 1980, apparently believing that enough time had passed, he launched a fierce primary challenge against unpopular President Jimmy Carter that roiled the Democratic Party. Republican Ronald Reagan defeated Carter handily in the general election.

After that last foray into presidential politics, Kennedy concentrated his efforts on the Senate, becoming one of that body's most effective members.

Though his most cherished legislative goal of universal health insurance eluded him, Kennedy helped write a number of laws that ranged from making it easier for workers who change or lose jobs to keep their health insurance, to giving 18-year-olds the right to vote, to deregulating the airlines, helping lower airfares.

He several times spearheaded legislation to raise the minimum wage and, in the early 1970s, wrote the law creating Meals on Wheels, which delivers meals to seniors. He was influential in reforming immigration laws and in expanding Head Start programs.

In 1982, he helped gain an extension of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, and he was a principal sponsor of the Civil Rights Act of 1991, which negated Supreme Court decisions that made it more difficult for minorities to win lawsuits charging job discrimination by employers. In 1990, he worked with then-Sen. Robert J. Dole (R-Kan.) to gain passage of the landmark Americans With Disabilities Act giving disabled Americans greater access to employment, among other things. That same year, he was author of the Ryan White Comprehensive AIDS Resources Emergency (CARE) Act providing funds for community healthcare and support services.

And every major education law passed since the 1960s bears Kennedy's imprint, according to the National Education Assn., which gave Kennedy its highest award in 2000.

"Americans have so much affection for the Kennedy family, and they often fail to see past the legend and the celebrity," the group's then-president, Bob Chase, said at the time.

Through sheer energy and willingness to focus, Kennedy could challenge presidents and galvanize legislators of both parties around a given issue.

Following in the footsteps of his brother Robert, he was an early opponent of U.S. participation in the Vietnam War in the 1960s. In the 1970s, he criticized Carter's energy policy. In 1987, he was central to the defeat of Reagan's nomination of conservative Robert H. Bork to the Supreme Court, delivering a powerful denunciation of the president's choice on the Senate floor. He also fought Reagan over cuts to social programs and, in 1989, Kennedy denounced President George H.W. Bush's incursion into Panama to oust strongman Manuel Noriega.

In 1993, Kennedy worked with newly elected President Bill Clinton to gain passage of a bill to allow employees to take time off from their jobs to care for a newborn child or deal with a family illness. And in 2001, he teamed with newly elected President George W. Bush to gain passage of the No Child Left Behind legislation to strengthen educational standards through increased testing and other federal incentives to local school districts.

No matter if the Democrats were in the majority or the minority, Kennedy remained activist and outspoken, sometimes berating the GOP for not addressing social issues.

Once asked what his best quality was as a legislator, he answered: "Persistence."

"He deserves recognition not just as the leading senator of his time, but as one of the greats in [the Senate's] history," New York Times reporter Adam Clymer wrote in his 1999 biography of Kennedy.

Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, the conservative Utah Republican who once described some of Kennedy's legislation as "socialism in embryo," said on the occasion of Kennedy's 70th birthday celebration in 2002 that one of the reasons he had originally run for office was to get Kennedy out of office.

"As the past 26 years have amply indicated, I have failed, and I have come to appreciate that the country is better for it," said Hatch, who over the years found common ground with Kennedy on education and health issues and even co-sponsored a bill to allow the creation of cloned embryos to provide stem cells under strict federal oversight.

Edward Moore Kennedy was born Feb. 22, 1932, in Brookline, Mass., to great wealth and even greater expectations. The youngest of nine children, he was the son of Joseph P. Kennedy Sr., a self-made millionaire who descended from Irish immigrants and rose to become the U.S. ambassador to Britain. Ted's mother, Rose, was the daughter of John F. "Honey" Fitzgerald, a former Boston mayor.

Though Kennedy's life was privileged, it was filled with tragedy almost from the beginning. When he was 12, his brother Joe Jr., a Navy pilot, was shot down over England during World War II. When he was 16, one of his sisters, Kathleen, died in a plane crash. Earlier, when he was 9, his mentally retarded sister Rosemary was sent to an institution; she died in 2005.

Kennedy went to Harvard University but as a freshman was expelled after having a friend take a Spanish exam for him.

This early indication of "blurred judgment," Kennedy biographer Max Lerner wrote in 1980, set a pattern of "confusion, blunder, remorse, expiation, rebuilding, that was to be repeated on a larger canvas." Significantly, Kennedy's father was able to suppress the story from the newspapers until Ted ran for the Senate 11 years later.

After being expelled from Harvard, Kennedy enlisted in the Army, rising to private first class and winning an honorable discharge in 1953. He was accepted back at Harvard and graduated in 1956. He graduated from law school at the University of Virginia three years later.

Kennedy plunged into politics almost immediately, serving as campaign director for the Rocky Mountain states in John Kennedy's 1960 drive for the presidency.

He then took a job as assistant district attorney in Suffolk County, Mass., and, in 1962, he ran against a prominent Democrat, state Atty. Gen. Edward McCormack, for the unexpired Senate term vacated when JFK won the presidency.

The campaign gave the younger Kennedy his first brush with political hardball: McCormack, a veteran politician and nephew of House Speaker John W. McCormack, portrayed his challenger as a lightweight who was trading on his family name.

"If your name was [merely] Edward Moore [instead of Edward Moore Kennedy], your candidacy would be a joke," McCormack told him during a debate.

But Kennedy's name was Kennedy, and he won the primary. He went on to beat Republican George Cabot Lodge, the son of former Sen. Henry Cabot Lodge Jr.

Kennedy arrived in the chamber at age 30, the minimum age required for a senator.

With one brother in the White House and another, Robert, as U.S. attorney general, it was not out of the realm of possibility at the time that there could be a run of three successive Presidents Kennedy.

Then came Nov. 22, 1963.

Kennedy was in Washington when he received word that the president had been shot to death in Dallas. It was the beginning of another string of tragedies for the family.

On June 19, 1964, a private plane flying Kennedy from Washington to Springfield, Mass., crashed, killing an aide and the pilot. Kennedy sustained a broken back, forcing him to campaign for his first full Senate term from a hospital bed. He won the election with almost 75% of the vote.

Then, on June 5, 1968, his brother Robert, then a New York senator, was shot at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles on the night that he won the California Democratic presidential primary; he died the next day. Kennedy delivered an eloquent, often-quoted eulogy at the funeral in Washington, praising his brother in a breaking voice as "a good and decent man, who saw wrong and tried to right it, saw suffering and tried to heal it, saw war and tried to stop it."

After Richard M. Nixon narrowly won the presidency in 1968, Kennedy became the early favorite to mount a challenge four years later.

The accident at Chappaquiddick the following year crushed those ambitions. As Lerner wrote in "Ted and the Kennedy Legend: A Study in Character and Destiny" (1980), this self-inflicted wound, more than any other event, "blocked his path to the White House, called his credibility into question and damaged the Kennedy legend." Kennedy had flown to Chappaquiddick that July 18 to sail in a regatta and later throw a party for six young women who had worked in Robert Kennedy's presidential campaign. Chappaquiddick is near Martha's Vineyard, an island off the Massachusetts coast.

According to an account given by Kennedy in a televised speech carried nationwide a week after the accident, the party went on until the early hours. Kopechne, one of the campaign aides, wanted to go back to Martha's Vineyard, where the group was staying. Kennedy volunteered to drive her to the ferry.

But, Kennedy recounted, he took a wrong turn and drove the car off a narrow wooden bridge and into a tidal pond. The car toppled over on its roof. Kennedy said he tried to rescue Kopechne and that he had suffered a "cerebral concussion as well as shock" in the accident, which might explain "the various inexplicable, inconsistent and inconclusive things I said and did," including his failure to notify authorities for 10 hours. This delay, he said, was "indefensible."

This explanation, doubted by many, came after Kennedy had been in seclusion for several hours after the accident with a large number of political and legal advisors. At the same time he made his statement, Kennedy also announced that he was pleading guilty to leaving the scene of an accident, for which he received a suspended two-month jail sentence and had his driving license taken away for a year. He put his political fate in the hands of his constituents.

The incident marked, as President Nixon privately gloated at the time, "the end of Teddy," at least as a viable presidential foe. "That will be around his neck forever," Nixon later told his White House chief of staff, H.R. Haldeman.

Kennedy surprised many by easily winning reelection to the U.S. Senate in Massachusetts in 1970, albeit by a smaller margin than in 1964.

But, as Nixon predicted, Chappaquiddick would curtail further presidential aspirations, as his most serious attempt in the 1980 Democratic primary contest finally made clear.

Kennedy had tangled repeatedly with Carter over national health insurance and energy policy, but the decision to mount a liberal challenge to an incumbent Democrat was nevertheless startling.

And from the start, it was clear that Kennedy had miscalculated, that questions about Chappaquiddick would not go away.

Although he stayed in the race until the very end, he could claim nothing more than having damaged Carter's chances against Reagan.

Kennedy turned his talents to the Senate. A master legislator, he seemed to reach his full potential in his continued efforts to champion the poor, abused and deprived. When his party was out of power in the Senate, Kennedy adjusted to being a member of the minority and, backed by one of the best congressional staffs in Washington, was able to get things done that others could not.

For example, in 1996, working in tandem with Sen. Nancy Kassebaum (R-Kan.), he pushed through legislation that guaranteed Americans the right to buy health insurance and limited the length of time that an insurer could deny coverage for a specific "preexisting" medical condition.

Also in 1996, Kennedy spearheaded legislation to raise the minimum wage, achieved largely because of his willingness to couple that liberal cause with a package of business tax cuts that Republicans favored.

In 1999, he sponsored and passed legislation to allow the handicapped to work without losing Medicaid health benefits. And he was one of the Senate authors of the "patients' bill of rights."

Though in 2000 he worked with President George W. Bush on strengthening education standards, Kennedy did not abandon the frayed banner of liberalism. In early 2002, he was one of only a handful of Democrats to openly call for repeal of parts of the Bush tax cuts enacted the previous year.

In the end, he would live decades longer than his brother John, who died at 46, and his brother Robert, who died at 42. Before and after his 24-year marriage to Joan Bennett ended in 1983, Kennedy had a well-earned reputation for drinking and carousing with women. In the spring of 1991, he was forced to testify in the trial of his 30-year-old nephew, William Kennedy Smith, who was charged with having raped a woman near the family beach house in Palm Beach, Fla., after a late-night drinking bout with his Uncle Ted at a local bar. Smith, the son of Kennedy's sister Jean and her late husband, Stephen Smith, was acquitted.

In October 1991, Kennedy made a public apology of sorts at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, in which he said he recognized "the faults in the conduct of my private life."

"I realize that I alone am responsible for them, and I am the one who must confront them," he said. Unlike his brothers, he said, he had been given "length of years and time," and he said he was determined "to give all that I have to advance the causes for which I have stood for almost a third of a century."

In 1992, Kennedy married Washington lawyer Victoria Reggie, a move that friends said settled and re-energized him. The 6-foot-2 senator kept more conventional work hours while also stepping up his work pace in the Senate.

"People measure me against my brothers' 'performance,' " Kennedy said in a 1983 New York Times interview. "It's always been with me. But I like to believe that during the time I've been in the Senate that I've made some contribution. I take some satisfaction in that. My brothers were very much their own people. I like to think that I'm my own man."

Besides his wife, Kennedy is survived by his daughter, Kara Kennedy Allen, his son Edward Jr. and another son, Patrick, who followed his father into politics, serving in the House representing Rhode Island. Kennedy also is survived by grandchildren and sister Jean Kennedy Smith.

Luther is a former Times staff writer and editor.

Cap-And-Trade Is Refinery Killer


By INVESTOR'S BUSINESS DAILY | Posted Tuesday, August 25, 2009 4:20 PM PT

Energy Policy: A new study shows that Waxman-Markey will increase prices at the pump, deepen our dependence on foreign oil and shred our ability to turn crude into gasoline. Even fuel-efficient cars will still need fuel.

Read More: Energy

Oil may bubble up out of the ground, but gasoline does not. It's made in those ugly little NIMBY places called refineries we are loath to build anymore because we're too busy trying to save the Earth rather than our economy and American jobs.

When Hurricane Katrina shut down 20% of our refining capacity in a single day and raised gas prices in a single week by 45 cents a gallon, it showed how stretched to capacity our refineries were and are. Throw in the requirement for boutique fuels that vary by season and location, and our vulnerability to disruption is immense.

The number of refineries and total capacity to produce gasoline in the U.S. peaked in 1981, with 324 refineries able to process 18.6 million barrels of crude oil a day. Today, with U.S. demand for oil more than 20% higher, refinery capacity is roughly 17% lower.

Refineries operate near full capacity in the summer, leaving the nation's fuel supply chain vulnerable to disruption. That was the case a year ago, when Hurricanes Gustav and Ike shut down most Gulf Coast refineries, and gas stations throughout the Southeast ran out of fuel.

With climate-change hype taking legislative form in HR 2454 and the Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade bill, and with fossil fuels on the endangered species list, not many in Washington seem concerned that Waxman-Markey, among its other costs to jobs and growth, will further endanger our gasoline supply.

In 1981, the U.S. had 324 refineries with a total capacity of processing 18.6 million barrels of crude a day. A study by global consulting firm EnSys Energy shows that Waxman-Markey would reduce that figure to 12.2 million barrels a day from its current production rate of 14.5 million from just 141 active refineries.

Without Waxman-Markey, U.S. production rates would grow to 16.4 million barrels a day. With it, not only will refinery production rates drop but utilization rates as well, from about 83% today to about 63.4% in 2030.

The drop would have to be made up by foreign imports, the study finds, meaning the U.S. could end up relying on other countries for some 19% of its refined fuel, nearly twice the amount it imports today.

HR 2454 — which passed 219 to 212 on June 26, with the help of eight Republican congressmen — seemed to be aimed specifically at refineries.

Waxman-Markey is essentially a carbon tax on emissions. Companies will buy, sell and trade the emission permits. The bill also issues a fixed number of "allowances" for emissions, with companies paying for emissions they generate above those allowances.

Refiners are held responsible under the bill for 44% of all emissions, including their own (about 4% of the total), as well as the consumer emissions from heating oil, planes, trains and automobiles, as well as other petroleum uses. Yet they are allocated only 2.25% of emission allowances.

Production at U.S. refineries would drop, while production at refineries in countries that do not limit emissions would rise. The U.S. Gulf Coast, which houses the nation's largest refining complex, would bear "the full brunt" of competition posed by foreign refiners and the impact of higher energy prices in the U.S., according to EnSys consultant Martin Tallett.

Prohibition banned the manufacture and sale of alcohol. Now we seem to be headed in the same direction with oil and gasoline. For the sake of our economic future, not only do we need to drill, baby, drill, but we also need to refine, baby, refine.