The Corner

Re: He Who Pays the Piper

Jonathan: I don’t think there was a lot of daylight between the administration and the industry on the question of a unified national standard. Obama has been saying since he took office that he wanted “to avoid a patchwork system of emissions regulations.” What I’m saying is that the industry had no say about where the standard was set. Obama’s targets are much stricter than anything the industry would have accepted two years ago. Industry leaders put up a huge fight over less-strict standards in the 2007 energy bill, and that fight took place the summer after the Court handed down Mass. v. EPA.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m fully cognizant of what a terrible decision that was, thanks to your lucid explications of the case on NRO; it definitely made new regulations inevitable. But I’m just not buying the idea that getting a unified national standard was some great victory for the auto industry. The automakers didn’t have to negotiate for that; Obama wanted it, too. It wasn’t a concession the industry won in exchange for stricter targets; Obama set the targets where he wanted them and the automakers accepted it because they are politically powerless right now. They have zero clout. What I’m saying is that it points to a larger concern, which is that we are running out of industries that can effectively lobby against dirigisme, because the government is running so many industries.

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