A free-market energy blog
Random header image... Refresh for more!

Endangerment Finding: Legislative Hammer or Suicide Note?

EPA’s soon-to-be-published endangerment finding definitely puts a swagger in the step of energy-rationing advocates in the Administration, Congress, and environmental groups. They believe it gives them the whip hand in Congress–a hammer with which to beat opponents into supporting cap-and-tax legislation. This is too clever by half.

Yes, as explained previously, the endangerment finding will trigger a regulatory cascade through multiple provisions of the Clean Air Act (CAA).  A strict, letter-of-the-law application of those provisions to carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases would not only raise consumer energy prices. It could also freeze economic development, even shut down much of the economy. 

So, it’s not surprising that Team Obama and others think they can frighten opponents into supporting, for example, the Markey-Waxman cap-and-tax  bill, which specifically precludes CAA regulation of greenhouse gases under the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) program, the New Source Review (NSR) preconstruction permitting programs, the Title V operating permits program, and the Hazardous Air Pollutant (HAP) program. 

But the cap-and-tax faction miscalculate, because the rest of us are not caught between a rock and a hard place. We have a third option: Just say no to cap-and-tax, and then let the Administration take ownership of the rising energy costs, job losses, and GDP impacts that Obama’s EPA inflicts on the country by regulating CO2 under the CAA.

Roger Pielke Jr. concisely explains why the CO2 litigation campaign that begat Massachusetts v. EPA could and should be a political boon to Republicans:

Republicans must be drooling over the possibility that EPA will take extensive regulatory action on climate change. Why? Because the resulting political fallout associated with any actual or perceived downsides (e.g., higher energy prices) will fall entirely on Democrats and the Obama Administration. Far from being an incentive for Congress to act on its own, the looming possibility that EPA will take regulatory action is a strong incentive for Republicans to stalemate Congressional action and a nightmare scenario for Democrats.

Michael Shellenberger of the Breakthrough Institute agrees, pointing out that the Administration’s threat to regulate CO2 under the CAA unless cap-and-tax opponents come along quietly is tantamount to a promise to commit political suicide:

In other words, the White House “threat” to Republicans and moderate Democrats to regulate carbon is the equivalent of threatening your enemy with suicide. (“Don’t make me raise energy prices! You’ll really be in trouble with your voters when I raise their energy prices!”)

The CO2 litigation campaign bespeaks a fundamental contempt for the democratic process. Applying the CAA to CO2 could easily produce a regulatory regime far more costly than the Kyoto Protocol, yet without the people’s elected representatives ever voting on it. Those who instigated the Mass v. EPA case sought to substitute their will for that of Congress. They also sought to create a regulatory nightmare that Congress could fix only by adopting legislation that lawmakers would not otherwise support on the merits.

And now, this litigation strategy could blow up in their faces. ‘Tis a consummation devoutly to be wished. Republicans do have a knack for snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. But with a little coaching from energy realists (okay, a lot of coaching), we may yet protect the economy and the Constitution from Mass v. EPA.

13 comments

1 Ed Reid { 04.17.09 at 8:09 am }

Stabilizing ambient CO2 concentrations would require a global reduction of CO2 emissions of ~99.95% (to ~1750 emissions rates or below). Therefore, for all proctical purposes, NO CO2 EMISSIONS.

The IEA estimated last year that a 50% reduction globally by 2050 would require the investment of ~$45 trillion. That suggests that total elimination would require investment of more than $100 trillion and perhaps as much as $150 trillion globally over the period. Yes, that would be “far more costly than the Kyoto Protocol”.

Also, lost in the noise, is the UN FAO estimate that ~18% of GHGs are emissions from domesticated animals (cows, steers, hogs, sheep, chickens, etc.) I will not attempt to estimate the impact on human GHG emissions which would result from a shift from animal protein to legumes as the principal dietary source of protein.

Most of the attention in the media now is focused on the “tax” component of “cap and tax”, which, while onerous, is relatively trivial in the overall picture, when you include the investments required to actually reduce the carbon emissions. I estimate the investments required for the Administration’s “80% by 2050″ at one “TARP” per year through 2050.

With apologies to the late Senator Everett McKinley Dirksen: “Ten trillion here, ten trillion there, pretty soon you’re talking about real money.”

Of course, unless the rest of the nations on the globe “fall on their swords” as well, the purported goal of the effort would remain beyond reach.

2 Endangerment finding: Legislative Hammer or Suicide Note? | OpenMarket.org { 04.17.09 at 10:06 am }

[...] prices, destroying jobs, and de-stimulating the economy. For further discussion, see my post on MasterResource.Org. « Stop Thief! NYT steals Examiner’s AIG scoop with no [...]

3 Trade Jim News » EPA: ‘Overwhelming’ Cause to Regulate Greenhouse-Gas Emissions { 04.17.09 at 1:13 pm }

[...] in particular is interesting. Marlo Lewis, of the pro-business Competitive Enterprise Institute, figures the EPA’s ruling amounts to a “suicide note.” That is, far from prodding Congress to pass [...]

4 Wall Street Journal » Blog Archive » EPA: ‘Overwhelming’ Cause to Regulate Greenhouse-Gas Emissions { 04.17.09 at 2:02 pm }

[...] in particular is interesting. Marlo Lewis, of the pro-business Competitive Enterprise Institute, figures the EPA’s ruling amounts to a “suicide note.” That is, far from prodding Congress to pass [...]

5 Shopfloor » Blog Archive » Others Comment on EPA’s Proposed Endangerment { 04.17.09 at 2:22 pm }

[...] Competitive Enterprise Institute, Marlo Lewis, “Endangerment finding: Legislative Hammer or Suicide Note?”: The CO2 litigation campaign that begat Massachusetts v. EPA turns out to be too clever by half. As Roger Pielke, Jr. and Michael Shellenberger astutely observe, Team Obama’s threat to regulate greenhouse gases via the Clean Air Act (CAA) unless Congress enacts cap-and-tax legislation is tantamount to a promise to commit political suicide. However costly cap-and-tax might be, litigation-driven CAA regulation of greenhouse gases is potentially far more damaging to the economy. Instead of being a hammer that beats opponents into submission, EPA’s forthcoming endangerment finding–the first step in regulating greenhouse gases under the CAA–should strengthen Congressional Republicans’ resolve to fight cap-and-tax. By doing so, they will ensure that Obama and his allies bear all the blame for raising consumer energy prices, destroying jobs, and de-stimulating the economy. For further discussion, see my post on MasterResource.Org. [...]

6 henessy { 04.17.09 at 4:24 pm }

the nation elected these crazeys–and now we will pay for that mistake…the next election/nov 2010- will be the most intence in a long while..jjh

7 Sid Malik { 04.18.09 at 12:41 am }

The move is expected to “halt economic progress” by “increasing consumer good prices” is the argument above. However, unless there is a significant advancement with fossil fuels, they too will directly impact consumer prices, as we will find ourselves dealing with “hard to drill, more expensive though abundant” fossil fuels. All above arguments have to be considered in light of end of the era of “cheap” fossil fuels. How much $$ are the two options (do nothing and continue with fossil VS. support renewables) worth on a lifecycle basis should be a discussion involving not only economists, but also geologists & technologists (drilling experts). Discount that escalation in consumer prices or value of future subsidies required to fund fossil fuels– it is only then you get a REAL economics & determine if consumers will benefit or not. Any other analysis approach adopted will only result in unleveled playing field & subjective discussions, whereas the need of the hour is fact-based objective approach.

8 Even Greater Disbelief of Alarmists | GlobalWarming.org { 04.20.09 at 1:40 pm }

[...] ready to cave in to EPA, Waxman or the president on this issue ought to have his head [...]

9 The American Spectator : AmSpecBlog : Even Greater Disbelief of Alarmists { 04.20.09 at 1:47 pm }

[...] ready to cave in to EPA, Waxman or the president on this issue ought to have his head [...]

10 EPA to regulate GHGs, or urge congress to act » Mind of Dan { 04.20.09 at 5:51 pm }

[...] in particular is interesting. Marlo Lewis, of the pro-business Competitive Enterprise Institute, figures the EPA’s ruling amounts to a “suicide note.” That is, far from prodding Congress to pass [...]

11 Poll Indicates More People Skeptical of Man-Made Climate Change Theory « Ancavge { 05.04.09 at 2:02 pm }

[...] ready to cave in to EPA, Waxman or the president on this issue ought to have his head [...]

12 How long will Sen. Barrasso’s “hold” on Regina McCarthy hold?  | OpenMarket.org { 05.11.09 at 5:54 pm }

[...] legislation foes into submission. This is too clever by half, however, as I argue here and here. If EPA does bring the might and fury of the Clean Air Act down upon the economy, Obama will have [...]

13 Sen. Lindsey Graham’s Me-Too Kyotoism (will he snatch defeat from the jaws of victory?) — MasterResource { 10.15.09 at 1:02 am }

[...] legislative hammer to beat cap-and-trade opponents into submission. But, as I discuss in a previous post, this ‘come along quietly or we’ll let EPA muss ya up’ talk is too clever by [...]

Leave a Comment