I hate to distract from the fun we’re having going over the bizarre show of today’s Foreign Relations Committee hearing with Al Gore repeating claims that have been thoroughly debunked, but I’m just now coming across Jonathan Adler’s re-airing his plea that business find someone to accept the terms of their (and, I believe he is saying, our) surrender before we even see if the opposition can get their horses–more like mules–out of the stall.
Jonathan repeats his claim that “EPA is required to begin regulating greenhouse gases as a consequence of Massachusetts v. EPA.” And I repeat that, simply taking the majority at their word: no, EPA is not; it is required to regulate CO2 from new auto tailpipes–make an “endangerment” finding–or ground a reason for not doing so in the statute. The fact that CO2 emissions from U.S. automobiles pose no endangerment is a very solid reason . . . after all, if we took them all off the roads tomorrow, neither human health nor the environment (or climate) would show any improvement (and if anything quite the opposite, but also not so much for reasons of reduced CO2 fertilization).
Jonathan’s argument is:
Regulating greenhouse gases under existing law will be a disaster, but what’s the alternative? I’ve endorsed the idea of a revenue-neutral carbon tax. My friend Chris Horner thinks this is preemptive surrender, but what’s his alternative? Absent new legislation, EPA is poised to regulate cars, trucks, factories, power plants, and much, much more. The number of facilities covered by the PSD program alone will increase ten-fold or more without a legislative fix. I know Horner would like a clean Clean Air Act revision, simply excising greenhouse gases. But assumig that’s impossible—or, perhaps, once that measure fails—what is his Plan B?
Being unmistakably a call for response, I oblige. First, we just have to agree to disagree. Jonathan is of the same position as many others, that you “can’t just say ‘no’ ” to an idea, no matter how bad the idea is. Jonathan is a law professor, so he will appreciate taking this position to its logical conclusion: surely there was some half-way alternative at the Wannsee conference? Under this theory (and it is stated just that plaiinly in meetings I’ve suffered through) you can’t say no to–oh I don’t know, slavery–but should instead offer to grant African-born slaves status as three-fifths of a person (now now, I’m analogizing my colleague to a Founding Father in his wisdom, understanding that some see many virtues in compromising, no matter how vehemently they disagree on a matter of widespread contemporary acceptance). In Washington, you have to offer up an alternative. You have to haggle.
Again, someone please tell me what we offered as an alternative to HillaryCare to get out from under that mess, and I suppose I will grant that argument some currency. I think it was “NO!”
We could go round and round about the tactical as well as strategic mistakes that accompany giving the cap-and-traders’ premise more credit than it is due, when the public is in no mood to let politicians get away with doing this to them in the open. And for some reason, Jonathan doesn’t see my point that there is zero “regulatory certainty” from this scheme becasue, being impact-free, they will simply begin agitating for the “next step” the day you surrender.
Still, Jonathan’s ultimate point, I believe, is that they’ve successfully fobbed it off on EPA and can get away with shrugging “what can I do?” Maybe. But the public went around the business community and won when it came to the illegal-immigration issue, and I suggest they could do the same here.
Implicit in Jonathan’s argument also is something I do agree with, which is that, when it comes to policymaking, repeal often seems to be the hardest word. But I do not think that that informs the conclusion Jonathan has reached.
I also continue to reject simply trying to cut a deal out of fear. That is precisely what these people desperately want you to do, which I find instructive as to how surely they view their situation. You see, as we’ve documented on Planet Gore, the greens know full well this would be an economic and social disaster . . . which is why they’ve been desperate for Bush or anyone to take ownership of it, to relieve them of the burden.
In addition to rejecting Jonathan’s notion that one must offer an alternative or one is not relevant, I also reject the false, second-degree condition that my position is further less tenable because I don’t also fail to offer a Plan B if my alternative fails. In truth, it is my friend and colleague who has no Plan B–and for very good reason of course (surrendering, rarely requires that–after all, what are the odds they won’t accept?). My Plan B does exist, and it is close to Jonathan’s Plan A: negotiate a deal, if you must, but after you’ve bloodied them . . . by fighting . . . which is what I call for, what Jonathan rejects, and what the opposition fears most of all.
We agree there’s a peril. We simply disagree how to deal with it. We are in the Phony War stage. I’m Britain. Back to you, France.