Filed under: Capitalism, Economy, Energy, Environment, Global Warming, Junk Science, The Constitution | Tags: Environmental Protetion Agency, Nominee Gina McCarthy, The Autocrat in the White House
President Obama has given more indication about what we can expect from the EPA in his second-term global warming agenda. He has picked Gina McCarthy, one of Lisa Jackson’s top lieutenants to head the Environmental Protection Agency as its new chief. Over the past four years, McCarthy has run the EPA’s air office, as a notably willful regulator.
Her promotion gives notice that Obama has given up on getting agreement from Congress on his anticarbon agenda, particularly given the number of Senate Democrats from coal or oil states. The real climate fight is now over the shape of rules to come that could be released as early as this summer, and apparently a brutal under-the-table lobbying campaign is now underway.
The debate about global warming and the hysteria of the environmental movement, but the problems of the appointment of McCarthy and the nomination of Ernest J Moniz to take charge at the Department of Energy demonstrate that the president is planning to use these two agencies to pursue an aggressive climate change agenda in his second term.
The key issue involved in these nominations and the president’s agenda for the coming four years revolve more around legal issues than the scientific disputes. The real issue is a Constitutional one.
“The question before the nation is whether the executive branch can or should give itself the power to run roughshod over Congress and unilaterally implement new regulations that will give the force of law to the president’s climate beliefs,” as Jonathan Tobin wrote in “The Climate and the Constitution” at Commentary.
The supreme Court granted authority to the EPA to regulate carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gasses. The EPA is in the midst of writing regulations to govern such emissions from new power plants. Those rules would essentially bar construction of any new coal-fired power plants unless they include the ability to capture carbon gases — a technology that is not available on a commercial scale.
To really restrict emissions, the agency must then devise emissions limits for existing power plants, a hugely controversial project that could force the shutdown of dozens of older coal-burning plants, cause a steep drop in domestic demand for coal and trigger a sharp rise in energy prices. Coal is the cheapest and most plentiful source of fuel for power plants. Obama made it clear, when he was first nominated and subsequently, that he intends to bankrupt the coal industry.
Environmental zealots are sure that wind and solar, clean sources of energy, will allow us to shut down the fossil fuel industry. Obama expects half of our energy to come from wind and solar by 2050. Not going to happen. Wind and solar energy is limited by the intrinsic nature of the wind and the sun. Without significant government subsidy, they would shut down. They cannot run without 24-7 backup from— fossil fuel power plants. Eliminating coal-fired power plants would not only raise the cost of energy significantly, but risk blackouts and brownouts.
Congress made a mistake when it wrote the Clean Air legislation by drawing the law so broadly that way too much was left to the whim of EPA and the Department of Energy regulation. Though the Supreme Court granted powers to protect air quality to the EPA, they have gone far beyond in a real grab for power. Any such regulations are sure to bring intense opposition from the courts and from Congress. The courts have not been shy in slapping down the overreach of the EPA.
The center of the problem is that the Constitution created an organization where the three branches of government could exercise checks and balances on each other. The core of that is the notion that writing laws are the purview of Congress. When a president assumes the right to draft, pass and enforce laws— even where Congress has refused to act— it is a rejection of the constitutional process. The Constitution doesn’t go for autocrats. If we become a nation where the legal framework becomes a matter of the dictates of a president, we will all be the losers in the long run.
Lately President Obama has been going around saying that he is a President, not a “dictator” or an “emperor,” but this is a distinction without difference. On Carbon regulation, Ms. McCarthy has been integral in abusing laws that were written decades ago to achieve climate goals that Congress has rejected, with little or no political debate. Her antidemocratic politics should be the subject of thorough questioning at her confirmation hearings. We would hope that the president would restrain his hubris and insist that his agencies act within the framework of the law, but the EPA has a longtime reputation as a lawbreaker.