Energy & Environment

Administration Selling Environmentalist Window Insurance

“Climate Czarina” Carol Browner sat down with the press this weekend, offering her best mob enforcer impersonation. She announced the Obama administration is offering “window insurance” to industry because, well, otherwise, you never know what could happen.

Claiming that the administration would rather see Congress pass a new “global warming” law — thereby avoiding most of the certain, if unintended, consequences of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) using an ill-suited 1970s law to regulate greenhouse gases (GHGs) — Browner hinted that surrender was in the best interests of those in the regulated community still holding out against such energy rationing schemes.

That’s because, she also noted, the administration was also preparing to let that stone-throwing EPA over there out of its cage. If business sued for peace and negotiated the terms of their own execution, why, they wouldn’t have to worry about the beast getting loose, in which case she just couldn’t promise what it might do.

This is the language and approach of a child. A spoiled rotten child, to be sure, but still fairly pathetic. Yet it would be all the more pathetic if anyone in industry fell for it.

Browner based her threat on a 2007 Supreme Court opinion, Massachusetts v. EPA. That case (Disclosure: I represented the skeptic scientists in an amicus brief) ruled on a petition under the Clean Air Act by a green pressure group.

The greens demanded that EPA classify carbon dioxide — the overwhelming majority of which is produced by Mother Nature — an “endangerment” to human health and the environment, at least when it comes from U.S. automobile tailpipes. The reasoning, of course, was that U.S. cars cause “global warming.” It does not matter that, since the Court ruled, planetary cooling has accelerated even as carbon dioxide levels continue to rise steadly.

Browner’s excuse is also lame because the Court did not order the Agency to regulate GHGs under the Clean Air Act, but rather made clear that EPA can simply ground a reason for not doing so in the statute. One obvious such reason is that even eliminating all U.S. vehicles would have no climatic impact. It would merely continue the anti-population, anti-development, anti-everything crowd’s march toward stuffing you into smaller homes and cars a la Europe so that, ultimately, you’ll have fewer babies and use less stuff. [A bit problematic, as home sizes in the U.S. have dramatically increased while family sizes have decreased and most of the increase in newborns is from immigrants who tend to live in far less spacious accommodations.]

Also, last I checked, the EPA was an executive branch agency of the administration of Browner’s boss. Its obvious discretion leaves the rogue-agency threat hollow. Our mobster, like all mobsters, is really just offering to sell you protection from itself.

Still, never underestimate the ability of D.C. lobbyists to find a way to nail the taxpayer, which is what the administration is counting on. Indeed, an administration insider confirmed my suspicions, even before this threat, that they have no desire for EPA to actually follow through on such disastrous regulations, but rather hope to herd industry into crying for a negotiated settlement.

In short, this is the most transparent bad-cop-worse-cop routine we have seen in these parts for quite a while. But, will it work?

It doesn’t have to. First, consider the state of play. Both Congress and the administration desperately want to be begged (read: given cover) by industry before they dare impose the Kyoto agenda; frightening business into surrender is their only plan. The holdouts need to be scared to their knees by EPA. If the holdouts instead hold firm, Democrats — not Republicans — certainly will again kill this effort.

So despite the fevered rhetoric, it is fair to compare both Congress and the administration to belligerent nations hoping their opponents will sue for peace without a shot fired, because they’re not sure they can get their own guys out of the trench if it came to war? The last thing anyone should do now is make their plight easier.

The green proponents have yet to get their act together for another go-round. Meanwhile, their targets — business — privately now admit to being terrified over just how radical this fellow in the White House might actually be, and, therefore, maybe they shouldn’t stir him. Of course, this leads to thinking about negotiating a (costly) truce, which is the plan.

Now, this latter profile in courage is not evidence that the stunt won’t work, but rather that the field of defining the scheme remains completely unoccupied. No one has framed this debate yet since the Senate’s last debacle trying to vote on such a bill. Then, Harry Reid pulled it from the floor after a matter of hours when Democratic senators pleaded with him to stop the savaging being inflicted upon them by their constituents.

So to help things along, I and others will soon initiate the public service of naming and shaming, explaining which companies are working with green pressure groups to raise your energy taxes. If more join them, and the administration, they will be  “outed” as well.

Politicians, greens and the slavish media hail such rent-seekers as “responsible” for picking up Enron’s business plan: Invest in loser businesses on the cheap, then support greens to scare the public into believing their call to “save the planet.” Under the false pretense of taking one for the team, they promote an energy rationing, cost-hiking, job-exporting and economy-killing scheme. From which they somehow profit at your expense.

Let the naming of names begin.

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