Climate Change Folly

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Politico reports that the EPA is about to propose modest greenhouse gas emission limits for heavy trucks and buses. Stephen Spruiell comments:

It’s going to be very, very difficult for Congress or industry to get the EPA to stop doing this. I’m fairly sure that the president can veto or ignore any law or resolution aimed at curtailing the EPA’s power on this front, and we know where the Court stands. My concern is that even if the GOP takes the White House in 2012, the EPA will have set so much of this process in motion that it will be difficult or possibly pointless to undo.

Obviously Spruiell is unhappy about this, though I’m pretty sure these regs are only superficially related to climate change anyway. Basically, they’re just an extension of the usual CAFE mileage standards, but ever since the Supreme Court ruled that the EPA was required to regulate greenhouse gases CAFE has become a joint DOT/EPA effort. That’s a pretty thin veneer, though. Improving mileage automatically reduces carbon emissions, so EPA’s involvement really has very little practical effect.

Still, Spruiell is right in general: EPA is going to start regulating greenhouse gases, and they’re going to do it because congressional conservatives unanimously rejected a climate bill that would have preempted EPA action and set up a better, more predictable1 framework for reducing carbon emissions. So now we’re going to start getting piecemeal EPA regulations that even liberals don’t really want. Conservative compromise could have produced a bill that, literally, would have been better than the status quo by everyone’s yardstick. The business community would have liked it better than EPA regs, liberals would have liked it better, and conservatives would have liked it better. But compromise is death with the tea party breathing down your neck, so instead we end up with the worst of all possible worlds. Nice work.

1Yes, more predictable. Ironically, for all the yammering that conservatives are currently doing about businesses cowering in fear because of the jackboot of Barack Obama’s regulatory dystopia, they rejected a bill that would have removed EPA uncertainty and replaced it with known, reasonably measurable rules.

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