EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson made the announcement. (AP)
On Monday, at the start of the Copenhagen climate conference, the Obama Administration announced that its Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) now considers carbon a "pollutant". This was an expectant ruling, but a dangerous one.
Basically, this means that carbon has been put on the same level as other harmful chemicals defined in the Clean Air Act. Worse though, it means the Obama Administration can regulate it as dangerous and limit its use without going through Congress. So much for democracy.
This ruling has been inevitable since at least April and we warned about it during Mr. Obama's campaign, but its cynicism and willfulness still astonish. The political threat is so potent precisely because invoking a faulty interpretation of the 1970 Clean Air Act will expose hundreds of thousands of "major" sources of emissions that produce more than 250 tons of an air pollutant in a year to the EPA's costly and onerous review process. This threshold might be reasonable for traditional "dirty" pollutants (such as NOX) but it makes no sense for ubiquitous carbon, which is the byproduct of almost all types of economic production.
One reason this is being done now is because Congress has not passed the Cap and Trade bill. This bill will cause energy prices to rise jobs to be lost, but is supported by those who believe global warming is an imminent threat. Many feel the EPA announcement was made to help the U.S. save face overseas and show the rest of the world we were doing something.
The New York Times supports the EPA regulation and levies the threat.
There is one obvious way to keep the E.P.A. from having to use this authority on a broad scale. And that is for Congress to pass a credible and comprehensive bill requiring economy-wide cuts in emissions.
"Credible and comprehensive"? And by that, they mean a complete overhaul of our system and massive costs to consumers and small businesses. The one positive thing we can take out of the conference is simply that it is a charade; of all the climate conferences we have had, very rarely have they been binding and never has a country followed the agreement even when it is. George Will has a fantastic write-up about Copenhagen:
With 20,000 delegates, advocates and journalists jetting to Copenhagen for planet Earth's last chance, the carbon footprint of the global warming summit will be the only impressive consequence of the climate change meeting. Its organizers had hoped it would produce binding caps on emissions, global taxation to redistribute trillions of dollars, and micromanagement of everyone's choices.
China, nimble at the politics of pretending that is characteristic of climate change theater, promises only to reduce its "carbon intensity" -- carbon emissions per unit of production. So China's emissions will rise.
Barack Obama, understanding the histrionics required in climate change debates, promises that U.S. emissions in 2050 will be 83 percent below 2005 levels. If so, 2050 emissions will equal those in 1910, when there were 92 million Americans. But there will be 420 million in 2050, so Obama's promise means that per capita emissions then will be about what they were in 1875. That. Will. Not. Happen.
In the end, this EPA ruling is a dangerous precedent; a government agency arbitrarily determining something is harmful while forcing regulations onto the American people without a vote from elected representatives. One can only hope the backlash will scare Congress into action.
Note: Here's the video to open the climate conference. A tad bit of scare tactics.