With Monday’s EPA pronouncement, President Obama just made good on his campaign promise that he would “necessarily bankrupt” anyone with the audacity to build a new coal-fired electric station. Even though the EPA’s own computer model shows that the president’s proposed regulations would reduce global warming by around 0.02 (or less) of a degree Celsius by the year 2100, we now have sweeping consequences. Patrick Michaels, director of the center for the Study of Science at Cato Institute, explains how it came to be that Mr. Obama was legally able to go around Congress.
But there’s more bad news, including the nasty repercussions to the coal industry even though Monday’s action will do nothing about global warming. For an eye-opening grasp of our political process gone amuck, read here from Mr. Michaels how this was allowed to happen, the likely political fallout, and the discouraging news for what lies ahead.
Back in 2008, then-senator and presidential candidate Barack Obama said, if elected, he would “necessarily bankrupt” anyone who dared to build a new coal-fired electric station. On Monday, he made good on his campaign promise.
First, the science: The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) own computer model easily shows that President Obama’s proposed regulations would reduce global warming by around 0.02 of a degree Celsius by the year 2100. Actually, the true number is probably even smaller because that calculation assumes a future rate of warming — there hasn’t been any for 17 years now — quite a bit higher than it is likely to be.
Now, the process: People will ask where the president was granted such power to do this without the explicit consent of the Congress. The answer lies in the mirror. We, the people, elected a Congress that, in 1990, passed a massive amendment to the existing Clean Air Act that barely mentioned carbon dioxide. Only a few green lobbyists probably knew that it was buried in the text. In 2007, the Supreme Court held in a 5-4 decision that the act indeed gave the president the power to regulate carbon dioxide.
The court held that the president could only do this if an appropriate federal agency found that it “endangered” human health and welfare. The Bush administration sat on its hands, but the Obama clan had a preliminary finding on said endangerment 90 days after he took the oath of office.
It also doesn’t matter that the EPA’s basis for finding “endangerment” was pretty cheesy and easy to tear apart. As a rule, the courts don’t like to mess with technical decisions made by Washington regulators, so the EPA in 2009 granted the president authority to do precisely what he did Monday morning. And more.
Now, the impact: Having established that Monday’s action will do nothing about global warming, and that it was apparently quite legal, we can also be pretty confident that the coal industry of West Virginia, Southwest Virginia and eastern Kentucky — where much of the stuff that power plants burn comes from — has been dealt a very serious blow.