IS THE ADMINISTRATION AT WAR WITH ITSELF?

This morning, some conservative groups expended a lot of energy hyping a document that seemed to show the Office of Management and Budget -- and hence the Obama administration -- opposes the Environmental Protection Agency's decision to classify carbon as a dangerous pollutant. That was a bad idea, because it's just given the OMB a high-profile opportunity to restate its support for the EPA's finding. Peter Orszag, the director of the OMB, explains. And he also links to this April 17th post where he calls the EPA's decision "important" and writes that "the proposed finding is carefully rooted in both law and science."

Either way, what actually happened today is that the OMB gave the EPA license to go forward with its reclassification of carbon. This would, in theory, give the EPA the ability to regulate carbon autonomously. If Congress fails to act on cap and trade, in other words, the EPA can do some of the job itself. And it may do it in ways that the energy industry finds less congenial. Orszag put this pretty explicitly back in April:

The President has made it clear that he wants to move the nation toward clean energy, and that part of that effort involves a legislative approach to reducing greenhouse gas emissions under a "cap and trade" program. Such a program would be more effective and efficient than most types of regulation. While such a program is being debated in the Congress, however, the Administration is following both the science and the law with regard to the Clean Air Act.

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