There are strong suggestions circulating that President Bush is about to ask Congress to pass a bill on global warming. The story even made the front page of the Washington Times today. What’s going on?
My hope is that this is actually a “trial balloon.” As we used to say in the British government when leaking a potentially unpopular idea, “Let’s run up a flag and see who salutes.”
The purported reason for the call is because the administration has correctly realized the extent of the mess it is in following the ridiculous decision by the Supreme Court last year (in Massachusetts v EPA) that the Clean Air Act can apply to carbon dioxide. For the legally minded, a good rundown of exactly why this was a bad decision can be found here. In any event, the administration now faces a regulatory nightmare forced on the nation by the use of the Clean Air Act, Endangered Species Act and the National Environmental Protection Act to take the action on global warming that environmental zealots want but Congress has been reluctant to take. The EPA has, very sensibly, announced a wide public consultation so that people can voice their concerns about what regulations under the CAA would mean for them.
So, one might argue, the President would be right to take this action and call on Congress to take action and avoid the regulatory morass. That’d be wrong. What the activists have done via their court actions is to say, ‘Pretty nice economy you got there. Shame if someone came along and wrecked it.’ This is policy extortion and the President should not give in to it. Any bill proposed by the White House is likely to be unacceptable to the zealots and their Congressional allies, but the President’s concession that “something must be done” will stregthen their hand immensely. So what we are likely to end up with is a much stronger global warming bill that probably also leaves the regulatory nightmare unaffected, because they will not stand by and allow any teeth to be pulled from their precious CAA, ESA or NEPA. We’d end up with the worst of both worlds.
If this is a trial flag, first indications appear to be that House Republicans, far from saluting, want to tear it down and set it on fire. If so, I’d approve of burning that flag.