So why is it that the American Clean Energy and Security Act, commonly known as the Climate Bill, raising such a stir in Congress and across the nation?
What's not to like? Well, at close to a thousand pages, the bill that passed the House and is now in the Senate is a little more than complicated and not exactly a feel-good piece of legislation for some.
It establishes a cap-and-trade program that aims to control greenhouse emissions; it calls for an increase in renewable energies and calls for a 17-percent reduction of greenhouse gases of 2005 levels by 2020 and a staggering 83 percent reduction of those levels by 2050.
The fuss is over the potential cost to consumers and to the economy.
The big question here is jobs. Will a bill like this, one that can potentially bring about profound changes in a society, cost or create jobs?
In testimony before Congress so far, the bill's advocates quote figures showing that it will cost every American family $175 a year while opponents quote other sources claiming it will cost some $3,100 a year. It's been called a jobs creator and it's been predicted to cost millions of jobs a year.
Close to home the question is: What will it do for Alabama?
All seven members of Alabama's delegation to the U.S. House voted against the bill, agreeing with Rep. Jo Bonner, R-Mobile, that it would have a negative impact on the "fragile economy of our home state."
The congressmen specifically objected to the bill's requirement that utilities increase their use of renewable energy by 10 percent to 20 percent by 2020. Alabama, they claimed, is at a geographic disadvantage when it comes to wind, solar and geothermal power production.
The concern is echoed by Alabama Power Company, quite possibly the entity in the state with the most interest in this bill.
"People say we are the sunny South," said Michael Sznajderman, spokesman for Alabama Power in Birmingham. "We're more like the cloudy South."
By that, Sznajderman means, Alabama is a place where "renewables are a challenge. We really don't have enough wind here and the production of solar energy is much more expensive."
The way Alabama Power and the delegation sees it, this puts the state and the Southeast at a disadvantage.
Putting up wind turbines on the plains of central Texas and solar farms in the Mojave Desert might be a no-brainer, but making it a requirement will hurt business here and throughout the South, and almost certainly make it harder to recruit industry, their argument goes.
That, however, is the short-sighted view of things, argues people such as Pat Byington, a long-time advocate for environmental protection in Alabama and now an associate for the Wilderness Society.
Although his primary concern is the environmental protections offered in this bill, Byington stresses that the measure will not only be a net creator of jobs, it represents an opportunity to participate in a new economy.
In Byington's assessment, the changes that can come about because of the Climate Bill are no less profound than the recent advances in technology that have transformed the economy.
"This bill could be a huge jobs creator," said Byington. But more importantly, he says, "We really need to seize the moment here or we are going to miss a revolution."
As Byington puts it, it's not a question of the bill costing jobs; it is a question of losing jobs if you don't adopt it. Missing out on participating in the new green economy would be like becoming a slave to snail mail while everyone has discovered the Internet and is making money on it.
Indeed, some studies show the bill can be a jobs creator. One, done by the Political Economy Research Institute and funded by the National Resources Defense Council, estimated that more than 1.7 million jobs could be created, some 29,000 of them in Alabama.
On the other side of this debate is the Heritage Foundation which found that if the House version of the bill was passed into law, unemployment would increase by nearly 2 million in 2012, and reach nearly 2.5 million in 2035.
Plenty of people disagree, of course.
Richard Raeke, a former reporter for this newspaper, now works for Borrego Solar in California. He makes many points about jobs creation in a green economy, but his main one is that they won't go overseas.
"You need electricians, skilled people to build and install renewable energy systems," Raeke said from his office near San Francisco. "You can't ship that kind of work to China. It stays right here."
In the end, however, it just may come down to what the people really want. And the people in California may actually want something different from the people in Alabama. That brutal truth creeps out when Alabama Power's Sznajderman gets to talking about the wants of the company's customers.
When the power company polls its customers — and they get polled a lot — about what their concerns are, "the environment never shows up," says Sznajderman.
Customers are, however, very concerned about rates. And that, apparently, is the cost of the air we breathe.
Business as Usual is a Monday column by John Fleming, The Star's editor at large. Send your suggestions for items to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Just before the House vote on the Climate Bill, one of Alabama's freshmen representatives, Bobby Bright, was called to the West Wing of the White House along with about half a dozen other Democrats for a meeting with Rahm Emanuel, the White House chief of staff. It didn't do much good, Bright still voted no on the measure.
His critics might say he's not close enough to nature.
Maybe he should look to Woody Allen for insight, who once said, "I am at two with nature."
Maybe it's because there are no Native American artifacts there?
According to its Web site, there is at least one Sam's Club in every state in the nation except Oregon and Vermont.
Leadership Calhoun County is looking for applicants for its 2009/2010 class.
For applications, e-mail Lynda Aker at the Calhoun County Chamber of Commerce at email@example.com
Also, the Chamber reminds us of those tax-free Dog Days of August: State Sales Tax holiday is set for Aug. 7-9. The details are at www.alabamaretail.org. Here's the skinny: (1) $100 or less per items of clothing or footwear is not taxed, (2) school supplies — with a few exceptions — under $50 per item are not taxed, (3) computers and computer equipment under $750 are not taxed, and ANY book valued as $30 or less in not taxed.