Should the EPA Limit Carbon Emissions?
The U.S. Republican leaders are blocking climate legislation, leaving the EPA in the position of having to regulate carbon emissions. Many Republicans in Congress are unhappy with the EPA and are now claiming the EPA regulation of CO2 is a “power grab”.
Progress has been limited at the climate meetings in Copenhagen and in Cancun because the U.S. has not acted to restrict its carbon emissions. The U.S. is second to China in emissions but emits six times as much CO2 on a per capita basis. If the U.S. is not willing to reduce its emissions, why should other countries? The U.S. came very close to passing cap-an-trade but it failed when John McCain (R Az) backed out of the deal because of a challenge from a far right candidate in the last election. Reducing CO2 emissions has been cast as a liberal issue and many conservatives oppose it for that reason. The wins by Republicans in the last election almost insure that action on a responsible policy will be delayed by at least two years. That is a shame as many Republicans in the past have been strong supporters of the environmental issues.
The Republican leadership adopted opposition to environmental regulations as a campaign strategy. They sent out propaganda based on slick reports produced by conservative think tanks, rather than science, and they inflated the cost of environmental legislation by a factor of twenty – while not mentioning any of the benefits. The propaganda has been passed along to voters in town hall meeting and press releases. The EPA has used science as a basis for its decisions and has moved to limit CO2 emissions as an air pollutant under existing regulations in the Clean Air Act. This has infuriated many Republicans anfd they have challenged the EPA’s right to do, calling it a “power grab”.
My Congressman, Frank Lucas (R-OK), has spoken disparagingly of environmental regulations in his town hall meetings and in opinion pieces he has sent to the states major newspapers. He also writes a column that goes to many small town newspapers called “Frankly Speaking”. In his column, he has labelled the EPA’s actions to limit carbon emissions as “the EPA power grab” . That is hardly the case. The Supreme Court, in Massachusetts v. EPA, found the Environmental Protection Agency could make a determination as to whether carbon dioxide is a pollutant. The EPA has found, based on the best scientific evidence, that CO2 is an endangerment to public health and has moved forward to regulate it.
If Congress had acted to develop a sound energy policy and to curb pollution, the EPA would not be forced to act in the matter. Regulations passed to limit carbon emissions would fall mainly on the coal industry and would favor a shift in the short term to petroleum and natural gas, both abundant in Oklahoma. Many from the petroleum and gas industries originally supported the cap-and -trade bill. However, all the OK Republican Congressmen sat out the process and let the Democrats from coal producing states load up the cap-and-trade bill with perks for coal producing states. Some of Oklahoma’s industrial leaders see that limiting carbon emissions could be favorable to the Oklahoma economy, but apparently, the elected representatives have not caught on yet.
And, it is not just about the CO2 or climate change. Along with the 30 billion tons of CO2 we put into the air annually are large amounts of mercury, lead, cadmium, arsenic, sulfur oxides, nitrogen oxides, particulates, and radioactive isotopes of radon. Those end up in the air, the water, and the food chain. We are now finding mercury in fish and some places, even in Oklahoma, have limits on consumption. The oceans are now 20% more acidic and economically important fisheries are threatened. Whether we cap pollution, tax it, or strictly regulate it – something must be done and soon. The EPA regulation is a stop gap meaure and the U.S. Congress needs to stop the politics and pass a sound energy policy and meaningful environmental regulations.
(C) 2010 J.C. Moore