The Bush administration, dismissing the recommendations of its top experts, rejected regulating the greenhouse gases blamed for global warming Friday, saying it would cripple the U.S. economy.
In a 588-page federal notice, the Environmental Protection Agency made no finding on whether global warming poses a threat to people's health or welfare, reversing an earlier conclusion at the insistence of the White House and officially kicking any decision on a solution to the next president and Congress.
The White House on Thursday rejected the EPA's suggestion three weeks earlier that the 1970 Clean Air Act can be both workable and effective for addressing global climate change. The EPA said Friday that law is "ill-suited" for dealing with global warming.
"If our nation is truly serious about regulating greenhouse gases, the Clean Air Act is the wrong tool for the job," EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson told reporters. "It is really at the feet of Congress."
White House press secretary Dana Perino said that President Bush is committed to further reductions but that there is a "right way and a wrong way to deal with climate change."
The wrong way is "to sharply increase gasoline prices, home heating bills and the cost of energy for American businesses," she said. "The right way, as the president has proposed, is to invest in new technologies."
At the just concluded G-8 summit at Toyako, Japan, Bush and other world leaders called for a voluntary 50 percent reduction in greenhouse gases worldwide by 2050 but offered no specifics on how to do it.
In a setback for Bush, the Supreme Court ruled last year that the government had the authority under the Clean Air Act to regulate greenhouse gases as a pollutant. Bush has consistently opposed doing that.
Congress hasn't found the will to do much about the problem either. Supporters of regulating greenhouse gases could get only 48 votes in the 100-member Senate last month. The House has held several hearings on the problem but no votes on any bill addressing it. Both major presidential candidates, Republican John McCain and Democrat Barack Obama, have endorsed variations of the approach rejected by the Senate.
In its voluminous document, the EPA laid out a buffet of options on how to reduce greenhouse gases from cars, ships, trains, power plants, factories and refineries. On Friday, Johnson called the proposals drafted by his staff as "putting a square peg into a round hole" and he said moving forward would be irresponsible.
"One point is clear: The potential regulation of greenhouse gases under any portion of the Clean Air Act could result in unprecedented expansion of EPA authority that would have a profound effect on virtually every sector of the economy and touch every household in the land," Johnson wrote in the document's preface Friday.
Attorneys general from several states called the administration's findings inadequate.
"While we appreciate the effort that EPA staff made in putting together today's documents, the time has long passed for open-ended pondering — what we need now is action," said Attorney General Martha Coakley of Massachusetts, which initiated the Supreme Court case.
The EPA said it had encountered resistance from the Agriculture, Commerce, Energy and Transportation departments, as well as the White House, that made it "impossible" to respond in a timely fashion to the Supreme Court decision.
"Our agencies have serious concerns with this suggestion because it does not fairly recognize the enormous — and, we believe, insurmountable — burdens, difficulties, and costs, and likely limited benefits, of using the Clean Air Act" to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, the secretaries of the four agencies wrote to the White House on Wednesday.
Discussing the benefits from reducing greenhouse gases, the EPA said doing nothing more than increasing fuel efficiency standards under last year's energy bill will reduce the harmful effects of global warming by $340 billion to $830 billion over the next three decades.
In a May draft of Friday's notice, the EPA had put the benefits to society of further reducing greenhouse gases at $2 trillion.
Friday's action caps months of often tense negotiations between EPA scientists and the White House over how to address global warming under the major federal air pollution law. It ended with the White House and other agencies citing "extraordinary circumstances" and refusing to review the draft forwarded in June by EPA scientists.
The document released Friday is much more cautious than a determination made in December by the agency that found greenhouse gases endangered welfare, and it also appears to counteract findings of drafts released in May and June that found the Clean Air Act could be an effective tool for reducing greenhouse gases.
"EPA's approach to this has been completely thrown out by the White House, which is only attempting to stall any kind of cleanup," said Frank O'Donnell," president of Clean Air Watch, an environmental advocacy group. "It sounds like the Bush administration is trying to ignore the Supreme Court and to pretend it doesn't exist."
Rep. Edward Markey, chairman of the House Select Committee on Global Warming, called the administration's findings "the bureaucratic equivalent of saying that the dog ate your homework."
"The White House has taken an earnest attempt by their own climate experts to respond to the Supreme Court's mandate to address global warming pollution and turned it into a Frankenstein's monster," said Markey, D-Mass.
Industry groups still expressed concern Friday over some of the suggestions included in the document, which will be the basis for a future action rule under a new president more inclined to take tougher action to address global warming.
"Our point on this is that EPA has set forth a road map which literally throws the entire way which we manage the environment and economy in complete turmoil," said Bill Kovacs, vice president of the Environment, Technology and Regulatory Affairs Division at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
[QUOTE=intelligentjetsfan;2624488]I wish we did not see this issue in partisan tones. I always thought that the ramifications are far too serious to turn it into a political football.[/QUOTE]
I could care less about the theoretical "ramifications". I'll be dead well before they will do me a drop of harm even in the worst case scenarios.
The "cure" however, will do me alot of harm. Economicaly at least.
So tell me again why I should give a ****, especially as I still maintain that scientific "consensus" on this issue doesn't mean dick all. They "think" X will happen, they cannot in ANY form prove it will. They cannot even prove climate change is real, they can only theorize it is vague and rather "forget these hundred other variables, it MUST be all man" terms.
I wish there was more of a desire to explore the issue rather than have some de-facto "It's this" without the requisite proof to gut our economy to "fix" it. Guess we both won't get what we want.
I'm not just a beliver in global warming but feel that the current use of the worlds raw materials in general is unsustainable. However anyone who thinks the Democrats will do a better job doesn't understand how our government works.
The farm bill and energy bills are both filled with huge ethanol subsidies because the farm bill is written by an Iowa Democrat and a big ethanol lobbyist and former Democratic Congressman and advisor to Obama, Tom Dacshle is also a former farm State lobbyist.
[QUOTE]IT wasn’t too long ago that a loose coalition of anti-ethanol forces was bemoaning the futility of its fight.
After failing to block huge new ethanol mandates in the Senate last December, Jay Truitt, until recently the chief lobbyist for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, complained about the “fervor” and “spirituality” that surrounded ethanol on Capitol Hill.
“You can’t get anyone to consider that there is a consequence to these actions,” he said, adding, “We think there will be a day when people ask, ‘Why in the world did we do this?’ ”
That day has arrived sooner than Mr. Truitt, or most anyone else, anticipated.
Of course, much of the turnabout is attributable to relentless price increases at the grocery store that have caused many people to argue that the land used to grow corn for ethanol should be used for food instead.
But the changing perceptions about ethanol have been helped along by the most unlikely of characters, a bearded and mild-mannered economist with a dry sense of humor and an encyclopedic knowledge of the arcana of American farm policy.
Until January, Keith Collins was the longtime and widely respected chief economist for the Department of Agriculture. In that position, he was a frequent booster of government policies that encouraged biofuel production.
In the months after his departure, he was hired by Kraft Foods Global to analyze the impact of biofuels on food prices. He delivered a stunning, and unexpected, roundhouse to his former employers.
The Bush administration had said biofuels were a minor factor in rising food costs. In a May 1 press conference, Edward P. Lazear, chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, said, “The bottom line is that we think that ethanol accounts for somewhere between 2 and 3 percent of the overall increase in global food prices.”
A month later, in Rome at a United Nations conference on the food crisis, the agriculture secretary, Ed Schafer, echoed Mr. Lazear’s analysis in defending American biofuels policy.
But Mr. Collins pointed out that the administration’s analysis was more like a back-of-the-envelope calculation, and that it hadn’t accounted for the impact of biofuels on crops other than corn. The push for ethanol has led farmers to grow more corn and less of other food crops, one factor in rising prices for commodities like wheat.
Based on his own analysis, Mr. Collins maintains that biofuels have caused 23 to 35 percent of the increases in food costs. (The ethanol lobby dismissed Mr. Collins’s analysis as a “Krafty use of corn demand data.”)
“I looked at a little bit more recent period,” said Mr. Collins, who appears uncomfortable in his role as a hired gun and treads carefully so as not to insult his former employer. “I was looking at a period when corn going into ethanol was rising much faster than what they looked at.”
His move to Kraft came amid an aggressive effort by the Grocery Manufacturers Association to change perceptions about ethanol while food prices were high. The association hired the Glover Park Group, a politically wired public relations firm in Washington, to help it develop a more effective strategy. Scott Faber, lobbyist for the Grocery Manufacturers Association, declined to comment.
The Glover Park Group wrote in its proposal to the association, “We must obliterate whatever intellectual justification might still exist for corn-based ethanol among policy elites.”
It also recommended identifying and recruiting “third-party validators.”
Mr. Collins said he didn’t believe his hiring was part of an anti-ethanol campaign. Instead, he said, he was simply asked by Kraft Foods for his thoughts on biofuels’ impact, and he ultimately wrote those up in a 34-page paper.
He also notes, correctly, that the turnabout in the ethanol debate has a lot more to do with relentless price increases than with P.R. strategists and his remarks.
“High prices are the dominant factor,” Mr. Collins said. “Without that, this coalition would not have gotten the legs they have gotten.”
Nonetheless, his criticism of the administration’s analysis was closely followed by a more thorough analysis from the Department of Agriculture. In comments made before a Senate subcommittee last month, Joseph Glauber, Mr. Collins’s successor, said the impact of biofuels on food prices was actually closer to 10 percent; the previous analysis had neglected to consider biofuels’ impact on soybeans, he said.
In an interview, Mr. Glauber said his analysis simply looked at a broader set of assumptions than the earlier one by the administration; for instance, he included the impact of soybean-based biofuels on food prices. While saying he might “quibble” with some of Mr. Collins’s assumptions, he said the analyses were similar.
“It just goes to show people have different ways of portraying these numbers,” he said. “I don’t think these analyses are all that different.”
EVEN so, Representative Jeff Flake, Republican of Arizona, has asked the U.S.D.A. inspector general to investigate why such an error was made and perpetuated. “It is unfortunate that two high-ranking officials from the same agency have made such incompatible fact-based statements,” Mr. Flake wrote in a June 26 letter to the inspector general, adding that the U.S.D.A. “must be able to produce and disseminate clear and accurate information, particularly when it pertains to the culpability of U.S. policy in skyrocketing food prices.”
Mr. Collins said his remarks did not contradict his work at the Agriculture Department. Back then, he said, he never anticipated that corn would hit $7 a bushel.
“We expected stronger prices for corn,” he said. “If we got the prices we anticipated — high $3s — everybody would be happy. Ethanol would be cruising along just fine.” [/QUOTE]
The single best thing that has happened that will impact fossil fuel usage is high, sustained gas and oil prices. We are already seeing a substantial decline in usage as people are driving less, buying smaller vehicles and reducing the amount of unnecessary trips all for their own economic benifit.
Interestingly this election, with all the talk of war is going to be about the economy and three things specifically, jobs, gas prices and food prices. Everything else is quickly becoming back burner issues.
Why are the Democrats blaming high oil prices on speculators? Why are the demanding that oil be released from the stratigic oil reserve to drive down prices when they are in favor of reducing the usage of oil?
If people actually do what's in their self interest and conserve and the risk of investing in alternative energy both goes down and the potential profit goes up because conventional energy prices are high, the Government has a smaller role to play in the entire sector. A Government with a small role to play has less power to pay off constituents and continue to self perpetuate the revenue needed to buy votes and power.
Last edited by Winstonbiggs; 07-13-2008 at 08:13 AM.