A global warming scam


Monday, February 16
John McClaughry

One of the first acts of the new Obama administration was to jump start a regulatory process that, if carried through as urged by Vermont's Attorney General, will put a crushing new burden on America's beleaguered auto industry and impose enormous regulatory costs on Vermonters.

Since 1967 the Clean Air Act has regulated air pollution from motor vehicles: nitrogen oxides, particulates, ozone, and other products of petroleum combustion that have harmful effects on human health.

The Act reasonably provides that individual states can't create a patchwork of regulations that would impose much higher costs on automakers, and therefore higher prices to consumers. But the act authorized California, with its Los Angeles smog problem, to seek a waiver to cope with its extraordinary conditions.

In 1975, Congress adopted nationwide corporate average fuel efficiency standards (Café) for motor vehicles, and significantly stiffened them in 2007 (to 35 mpg in 2020.) That act specifically forbids states from imposing fuel economy standards of their own.

In the 1990s, A! Gore and the enviro groups invented a powerful new political tool for seizing control of global energy production and consumption, and thus of the world economy. That was the Menace of Global Warming: the urgent conjecture — backed only by computer projections — that human combustion of carbon is cooking the planet.

To battle this supposed menace, California enviros got their legislature to pass a bill in 2002 authorizing state regulation of carbon dioxide emissions from motor vehicles.

Years of improved engine efficiencies have reduced emissions per ton-mile, but now the only practical way to further reduce carbon dioxide emissions is to push motorists into ever smaller vehicles that use less fuel per mile, or expensive hybrids and other exotic vehicles powered by fuel cells, compressed air, or batteries.

In 2005, California applied for an EPA waiver to impose its emissions regulations. Hypergreen Vermont rushed to get in on the California action. The Douglas administration approved a Californiatype emission regulation. The automakers sued to enjoin its application, even though California still hadn't won its EPA waiver.

In 2007, Federal Judge William Sessions ruled that if EPA gives California a waiver, the California regulations can be applied in Vermont. (The case is on appeal.)

In 2008, Congressman Peter Welch, with a California colleague, introduced a bill to force the despised (by them) Bush EPA to issue the California waiver. When that failed, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Attorney General Jerry "Moonbeam" Brown went back to court to try to force EPA to act. Attorney General William Sorrell quickly joined the parade.

Now Bush is gone, and President Obama has directed his EPA to reconsider the Bush EPA's waiver rejection. Governor Jim Douglas issued a statement praising Obama for his "action on his pledge to address climate change."

Let's assume the Obama EPA gives Schwarzerlegger, Brown, Sorrell, Douglas, and Welch their heart's desire. What will it mean for Vermonters?

It will mean that about six years from now many Vermonters registering a new car will have to pay more — probably a lot more — for an exotic upscale hybrid, or cram themselves into a smaller and less crashworthy car, van or truck.

Will that solve Vermont's air pollution problem? No, because sparsely populated Vermont doesn't have an air pollution problem caused by tailpipe emissions.

Will that defeat the Menace of Global Warming? No, because for eight years the planet has been steadily cooling, and the complete disappearance of sunspots predicts a couple of cold decades ahead. In any case, human-caused emissions of carbon dioxide have no detectable effect on climate change.

But the cost, inconvenience and utter folly of implementing this motor vehicle emission scam is far from the whole story. An Obama administration determination that EPA must regulate carbon dioxide as a "pollutant" will almost certainly cause a regulatory, cascade.

It will bring into play Prevention of Significant Deterioration regulations, not just on vehicles but on stationary businesses, buildings, road construction and farms (with over 25 cows) that emit 250 tons of carbon dioxide per year. That will force hundreds of Vermonters to obtain EPA permits requiring the installation of Best Available Control Technology.

It will probably trigger new National Ambient Air Quality Standards governing carbon dioxide "pollution," requiring that the present atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide actually be reduced. And it would surely drag thousands of Vermonters into a complex, costly, drawn-out and maddening permit process.

In short, this regulatory madness will hammer the already desperate auto industry and impose severe burdens on any significant C02-producing activity. It will, as intended, depress petroleum consumption, but it will contribute nothing toward combating the illusory Menace of Global Warming.

"This is a big victory for clean air," Congressman Welch said of the Obama action. He should — and probably does — know better that EPA regulation of carbon dioxide emissions would have nothing whatever to do with cleaning up air pollution.

It would have everything to do with strangling the reeling U.S. economy with complex and costly regulations, and bestowing a political victory upon bad science, big government, partisan politics, and unscrupulous enviro groups and their political allies.

The remaining question now is whether the Obama administration, which now owns this problem, will have the backbone to say no to all the enviros and kindred politicians now playing out their final act of pounding lumps on the departed George W. Bush.

It's not out of the question that it will. Let's hope so.

John McClaughry is President of the Ethan Allen Institute.


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