According to recent polls, the American public increasingly believes manmade emissions of carbon dioxide don’t cause global warming, and the science shows the public is right to acknowledge global warming is cyclical and natural.
Right now all eyes in the global warming debate are on Congress as it once again considers a cap-and-trade system despite prior defeats. This would require companies either to limit their carbon dioxide emissions to a federal-government determined level or purchase “credits” in the marketplace to exceed that level. The system would cost trillions, and Congress will be sensitive to public opinion polls regarding the issue.
Meanwhile, largely below the radar the Obama administration is proceeding with additional massive federal regulation of manmade carbon dioxide emissions. All the polls in the world will have no power to stop it.
The U.S. EPA will soon issue a formal finding under the Clean Air Act that carbon dioxide emissions from new cars are “air pollutants” that endanger human health or welfare. The already-teetering American auto industry will be forced to manufacture “green” vehicles Americans don’t want to buy–raising the question of why billions of bailout dollars are being poured down that particular “green” hole.
And it’s all going to get much more expensive. EPA’s endangerment finding for autos will trigger a cascade of federal regulation across the entire economy, as emission sources such as airplanes, off-road vehicles, and buildings become subject to regulation. While there are some differences among endangerment provisions applicable to these sources, once EPA makes an endangerment finding for new cars the agency will likely make identical findings for these other emission sources.
Regulation will take two forms. In some cases, regulations will have to be published for public comment before going into effect, but the endangerment finding will also mean new cars, buildings, and other structures–and major modifications of existing ones–will automatically require preconstruction permits. No public comments need be taken before this goes into effect.
Obtaining permits is extremely costly–usually several hundred thousand dollars–and very difficult. These permits will require that emissions of carbon dioxide be limited, even though there is no technology in place to do that. The permit requirement will apply to all sorts of structures, including schools, churches, hospitals, restaurants, and motels, never before regulated by EPA.
No one knows for sure what this regulation will cost, but it’s certainly going to be trillions of dollars, and it will further damage an already-faltering economy.
Hurdles remain before EPA can complete this regulatory mission. For regulations subject to public comment, years may pass before they go into effect, and court challenges are possible. Permit requirements, by contrast, go into effect automatically, so protesters must lodge any objections in individual permit cases across the nation. Again, court action can follow.
For the average person the difficulty in these potential administrative and judicial proceedings is that thousands of pages of regulatory legalese must be reviewed and comments must be supported with detailed technical and legal reasons why the regulation is unwarranted or illegal.
We’re going to be spending trillions of dollars trying to control Mother Nature with technology that doesn’t exist to solve a problem that doesn’t exist. The popular notion is that reducing one’s “carbon footprint” mostly means turning out the lights when leaving a room. Once President Obama gets his way, it’s going to mean emptying our pockets as well.
Maureen Martin ([email protected]) is senior fellow for legal affairs at The Heartland Institute.