The Climate at the EPA

Because the act was never written to apply to today’s climate neuroses, clean-air regulation is based on an extremely low threshold for CO2 emissions that will automatically transfer hundreds of thousands of businesses into the EPA’s ambit. The agency is required to regulate sources that emit more than 250 tons of a given air pollutant annually, which may be reasonable for conventional pollutants like NOX or SOX.

But this is a very low limit for ubiquitous CO2, and so would capture schools, hospitals, farms, malls, restaurants, large office buildings and many others. To exempt these sources, the tailoring rule unilaterally boosts the rule for greenhouse gases from 250 tons to 25,000 tons, an increase of two orders of magnitude.

via Obama Wants to Use EPA Loophole to Force Through Cap-and-Trade – WSJ.com.

The WSJ Editorial Board is quite critical of the EPA’s decision to enforce carbon emission standards only on the biggest emitters. Well, I’m no fan of the global warming hysteria, but fair’s fair. If the agency is required to enforce the standards, it makes sense to prioritize the work and go after the big “problems” first.

The big “problems” will be power suppliers of all sorts. To comply with forthcoming regulations, the suppliers will either have to go out of business (unlikely) or increase prices to cover the new costs. If they’re smart, they’ll identify the price increase as a carbon surcharge right on the bill they deliver to every American home and business. The higher costs for businesses will, of course, be passed on to consumers by means of higher prices – for everything. Higher prices mean less discretionary income for households and less money to invest – including those investments that might otherwise be made in green energy.

Changing the climate may prove quite expensive. It may prove to be ineffective and expensive. Still, those who warn of impending doom just might be right, so we should at least pay attention. On the other hand, there are many skeptics. That says to me that we shouldn’t commit whole hog toward a plan of action, but we shouldn’t do nothing. Starting with a portion of the plan makes sense. We will learn a lot. We might learn it’s just too expensive, or we might learn the impact is better for the climate and not so bad for the economy. Who knows?

I’d rather see tentative steps in the wrong direction than a full commitment to a bad plan. If I’m right, we won’t irrevocably damage the economy and will have the opportunity to change course. If I’m wrong, we haven’t lost much by not addressing the entire problem at once, especially since we probably couldn’t do it anyway.

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