Seven score and nine years ago, President Lincoln spoke about government of the people, by the people, and for the people. Yet, today, our lives are determined not so much by We the People, as by a distant central government, particularly increasingly powerful, unelected and unaccountable executive-branch agencies.
Consider the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), arguably the most intrusive administrative agency of all. Under Administrator Lisa Jackson, we have, at best, government of, by, and for some people. Or in the words of one public-choice economist, a government “of the Busy (political activists), by the Bossy (government managers), for the Bully (lobbying activists).” 
Secretary Jackson seeks not merely to regulate, but to legislate; not merely to protect our health and environment against every conceivable risk, but to control every facet of our economy, livelihoods and lives. Under her direction, EPA increasingly flaunts regulation unbound.
Instead of following laws and policies set by our elected representatives, EPA is now controlled by environmental ideologues, determined to impose their utopian ideas, via a massive and arrogant power grab. President Obama set the tone, with his promises to “bankrupt” coal and utility companies and “radically transform” our economy and society, and serves as the rogue agency’s cheerleader-in-chief. With few exceptions, our courts have refused to intervene, and the Senate has obstructed any meaningful efforts to constrain agency overreach or reexamine the laws under which it claims jurisdiction.
EPA’s power grab picks the pockets of every American business and citizen, making it increasingly expensive to fill gas tanks, heat and cool homes and offices, run hospitals and factories, or buy food and consumer goods. The Employment Prevention Agency’s $100-billion diktats are killing countless jobs, making America more dependent on foreign sources of energy and raw materials that we have in abundance right here at home, and endangering our economic health and national security.
Under Lisa Jackson’s agenda, fossil fuels are to be relegated to the second-class status compared to “renewable” sources. Regulations on carbon dioxide and other “greenhouse gases,” mercury, soot, and other substances are to make non-hydrocarbon energy appear cheaper by comparison, and pave the way for crony-corporatist “alternatives” like wind, solar, ethanol, wave and tidal action, and even biofuel for the Navy and Air Force.
In a mere six instances, our courts have delayed or blocked some of EPA’s worst excesses. Ruling that the agency had exceeded its authority, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia struck down EPA’s “cross-state” air pollution rule, which would have controlled power plant emissions on the ground that computer models predicted the pollutants might harm neighborhoods hundreds of miles away.
In far too many other cases, however, EPA has been given carte blanche to regulate as it sees fit. A key pretext is the 1970 Clean Air Act, as amended by Congress in 1977 and 1990. The act deals primarily with six common pollutants: sulfur dioxide, nitrous oxides, particulates (soot), ozone, lead and carbon monoxide. It never mentions carbon dioxide, the plant-fertilizing gas that is essential for all life.
As EPA itself acknowledges, between 1970 and 2010, those six “criteria” air pollutants declined by an average of 63% and will continue to do so under existing regulations and technologies. Moreover, those dramatic reductions occurred even as coal-based electricity generation increased 180% … overall US energy consumption rose 40% … miles traveled soared 168% … and the nation’s population increased by 110 million. However, EPA intends to go much further, to advance its radical agenda.
ERA ruled that carbon dioxide is a “pollutant,” ignoring natural influences and citing claims by alarmists like James Hansen and the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that this essential gas (0.0395% of Earth’s atmosphere) “contributes” to “dangerous” global warming.
Since hydrocarbons provide 85% of the energy used to power America, this single ruling gives EPA effective control over our transportation, manufacturing, heating, cooling and other activities – virtually our entire economy – while making it all but impossible to operate existing coal-fired power plants or build new ones.
War on Coal
To ensure that coal really is excised from our energy mix, EPA also issued oppressive new rules on other emissions. Its new mercury rule is based on computer-generated risks to hypothetical American women who eat 296 pounds of fish a year that they catch themselves, its determination to prevent a theoretical reduction in IQ test scores by “0.00209 points,” and its refusal to recognize that coal-fired power plants contribute just 3% of the total mercury deposited in American watersheds, and thus in fish tissue.
EPA’s new PM2.5 soot standard is equivalent to having one ounce of super-fine dust spread equally in a volume of air one-half mile long, one-half mile wide and one story tall – while other rules demand that water from coal mines be cleaner than Perrier bottled water!
The agency repeatedly denied Shell Oil permits to drill in the Chukchi Sea off Alaska, because emissions from drilling rig and icebreaker engines might contribute to global warming. It opposes the Keystone XL Pipeline on the ground that burning Canadian oil sands fuel might likewise “contribute” to catastrophic climate change – whereas that would presumably not be the case if China burned that same fuel.
When Congress failed to act, it imposed new 54.5 mpg automobile standards that will make cars less affordable, but also smaller, more lightweight and less safe, causing thousands of additional injuries, disabilities and deaths every year. The agency bragged about fuel savings, and ignored the human toll.
EPA also added industrial pollution, habitat destruction and fertilizer runoff as more reasons why irrigation water should not be turned on again in California’s San Joaquin Valley, to “protect” the delta smelt at the expense of farm jobs and families, after a judge ordered water to be turned back on.
To further justify its despotic decisions, EPA grossly overstates the economic benefits of its rules – insisting that each “premature death” theoretically avoided creates $9 million in hypothetical societal economic gains, whether the assumed “person” was a newborn or an 85-year-old in hospice care.
If even that isn’t enough, it uses human subjects in laboratory tests, exposing them to what Ms. Jackson has testified are dangerous, even toxic levels of fine soot. The agency also pays activist groups millions of taxpayer dollars a year to promote and applaud its farfetched claims and rogue actions.
Finally, EPA ignores the clearly harmful impacts its regulations have on human health and welfare. The rules cost jobs, thereby increasing the risk of depression, alcohol abuse, spousal and child abuse, cardiovascular disease and suicide. They just as obviously raise the cost of food, electricity, heating, air conditioning, commuting, healthcare and other necessities, thereby reducing health, welfare, living standards, civil rights progress and environmental justice – especially for poor, elderly and minority families.
EPA is out of control, and thus far unaccountable for its abuses of power, its disinformation and fraud, and the harm it is inflicting – for little or no health or environmental benefit.
Our founding fathers provided for elections, so that the American people could choose leaders who make the major decisions affecting their lives – and not be subjected to involuntary servitude at the hands of unelected, unaccountable kings or bureaucrats.
Rarely in history has one election meant so much, or one agency asserted so much control over our lives, livelihoods and freedoms. The 2012 elections will determine whether America once again enjoys a new birth of freedom, or continues suffering under an EPA that enslaves and impoverishes us, rather than protects us.
 Arthur Seldon, quoted in Robert Bradley, Capitalism at Work: Business, Government, and Energy (2009), p. 138.