Monday, 8 February 2010

Democratic Climate Revolt

A bipartisan effort to stop the EPA's anticarbon crusade.
The Obama Administration has been moving full-speed ahead on anticarbon regulation, never mind waiting for Congress to pass a bill. But now opposition is building among senior Democrats, with two powerful committee Chairmen introducing a bill last week to bar the Environmental Protection Agency from declaring that carbon is a dangerous pollutant.
EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson is busy writing new rules that would let her drive a tax-and-regulation bulldozer through the U.S. economy under laws never meant to apply to greenhouse gases. Ms. Jackson is expected to issue new anticarbon regulations for cars and trucks next month before moving on to power plants and other industries.
This is all too much for Missouri's Ike Skelton and Minnesota's Collin Peterson, the Chairmen of the House Armed Services and Agriculture Committees, respectively. Along with Missouri Republican Jo Ann Emerson, they are pushing a two-page bill that would amend the Clean Air Act to restore Congress's original intent and strip CO2 and other greenhouse gases from the statutory language.
This is bipartisanship we can believe in. Such legislation would vaporize the EPA's "endangerment finding" for carbon and thus require the Administration to use democratic debate and persuasion if it really wants to reshape the energy markets and impose huge new costs on American consumers. What a thought.
"If Congress doesn't do something soon, the EPA is going to cram these regulations through all on their own," Mr. Peterson said. "I have no confidence that EPA can regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act without severe harm to all taxpayers."
Added Mr. Skelton: "Simply put, we cannot tolerate turning over the regulation of greenhouse gas emissions to unelected bureaucrats at EPA. America's energy and environmental policies should be set by Congress." Yes, they should be.
The Skelton-Peterson-Emerson bill follows a similar effort by North Dakota Democrat Earl Pomeroy, not to mention Alaska Republican Lisa Murkowski's coming "disapproval resolution" in the Senate that has the support of Democrats Mary Landrieu, Ben Nelson and Blanche Lincoln.
Our one caveat here is that Messrs. Skelton and Peterson are doing the right thing for the wrong reason—specifically, to defend the ethanol industry. Their bill includes provisions that would expand the definition of renewable fuels and make it easier for corn ethanol and soy biodiesel to qualify for federal tax credits. This is despite the growing shelf of studies that common crop-based fuels increase carbon emissions because of land-use changes and deforestation.
In any case, Ms. Jackson released final rules last week that would allow ethanol to maintain its mandate on the U.S. fuel supply, requiring her agency to back down from the more restrictive and supposedly science-based rules that it had proposed last year. Ms. Jackson insisted that EPA wasn't "dumbing down" its regulations, but her bow to the ethanol lobby revealed the death-grip it exerts on Congress.
Yet in the case of carbon regulation—an even dumber policy—we'll take what we can get. If the power of farm-state politicians ends up stopping the EPA's global-warming power grab, it would be the first good thing ethanol has done for the country.