The Obama Administration, at this sensitive time, is playing down its expansive regulatory agenda, but some insiders are predicting a new onslaught of costly rulesÃ¢â‚¬â€including the imposition of cap-and-trade schemes on industry.
Although Congress rejected cap-and-trade legislation in 2009, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) remains intent on effectively rationing the use of fossil fuels. A court ruling earlier this year upheld the agencyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Ã¢â‚¬Å“findingÃ¢â‚¬Â that emissions of carbon dioxide pose a threat to public health. The ruling has only emboldened the EPAÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s regulatory impulses. According to Carol Browner, former administrator of the agency, the EPA is now poised for Ã¢â‚¬Å“piecemeal progress on cap-and-trade.Ã¢â‚¬Â
BrownerÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s forecast came Wednesday during a panel discussion on Ã¢â‚¬Å“Energy and the PresidencyÃ¢â‚¬Â sponsored by Politico this week. As reported by The Hill, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Browner offered that Obama would use the [Clean Water Act] and the [Clean Air Act] to go even further in his attempts to regulate air pollution.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Such talk is certainly bad news for the energy and manufacturing sectors, which have borne the brunt of ObamaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s regulatory hyperactivity. But revived prospects for cap-and-trade might well hearten the environmental lobby, which has criticized President Obama for (supposedly) ignoring global warming despite his declaration that the 2008 election Ã¢â‚¬Å“was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal.Ã¢â‚¬Â
While the President may appear to avoid direct reference to the global warming issue, his regulatory record bespeaks allegiance to drastic and unwarranted cutbacks in emissions of carbon dioxideÃ¢â‚¬â€the supposed source of looming environmental cataclysm.
For example, the consulting group ICF International estimates that 20 percent of AmericaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s coal power plants could be retired as soon as 2020 because of the AdministrationÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s regulatory actions. Indeed, the EPAÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s newest mercury and air toxics rule alone could cost as much as $100 billion per year, according to the Electric Reliability Coordinating Council.
Whether the President overtly pursues a costly cap-and-trade scheme remains to be seen. But thereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s no question that his Administration is aggressively imposing regulations that have much the same effectÃ¢â‚¬â€i.e., inflating the cost of fossil fuel energy in order to reduce some of the disadvantages of solar and wind power.
One might hope that todayÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s disappointing jobs reportÃ¢â‚¬â€and all the others like it during the previous three yearsÃ¢â‚¬â€would persuade Obama that his regulatory agenda is doing more harm than good. But hope for such wisdom from this Administration appears to be in vain.
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