Carbon crackdown is necessary
TORONTO -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's declaration that carbon dioxide and five other greenhouse gases are a health risk, which will allow the EPA to restrict emissions of those gases, probably will serve as a good tactic to advanc...
TORONTO -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's declaration that carbon dioxide and five other greenhouse gases are a health risk, which will allow the EPA to restrict emissions of those gases, probably will serve as a good tactic to advance the important goal of limiting climate change, but it is a bad precedent. It diverts a regulatory power designed for a different purpose -- under the Clean Air Act -- to bypass the legislative process.
Too much accumulation of carbon dioxide in the Earth's atmosphere may well have disastrous results, but CO2 is not unclean. It is not a toxin in the concentrations in which human beings encounter it; indeed, humans and other living things constantly generate it.
In an extended sense, global warming will endanger health; as the EPA says, longer heat waves, rising sea levels and droughts will cause deaths. By similar reasoning, however, environmental authorities could take over automobile safety or gun control, turning their power to make subordinate rules into a way of trumping legislation -- or the lack of it. That no longer would be government with the consent of the governed.
The Obama administration's resort to a sweeping regulatory power is understandable. Though the U.S. Congress succeeds in vividly articulating many more interests than a parliament such as Canada's, which is subject to strong party discipline, getting a bill through Congress, let alone one that makes sense, is far more difficult than in a Westminster-style legislature.
The House of Representatives has passed one unwieldy, exemption-laden cap-and-trade bill; a better bill has been launched in the Senate, but may not be voted on for many months.
It is to be hoped that the blunt instrument of the EPA's ruling, apparently timed for the Copenhagen climate change conference, will induce Congress to act more quickly and effectively. President Obama and Lisa Jackson, EPA administrator, both say they would prefer legislation; they are right.