Proposals that make it as far in Washington as cap-and-trade did rarely die neatly; they suffer and bleed and seed the ground with a new generation of mutant offspring. Some of the planted ideas aren’t strong enough to thrive in the harsh conditions of politics; others turn out to be surprising hardy.
Building a campaign around the Keystone XL pipeline was one of the latter type. Born out of cap-and-trade's failures, it thrived, fed by two theories—that you can’t trust D.C. politicos to react responsibly to climate change and that victory in the next legislative bout would require gathering power outside the capital. As as issue, Keystone XL has grown so big that, whatever decision the Obama administration finally makes about it in 2014, it will be brandished as an omen of this country's future (and, because it's connected to climate change, every other country's, too).
Cap-and-trade’s failure also gave life to another idea: the Environmental Protection Agency's work on regulating carbon pollution is one of the few fighting chances for any sort of success at slowing climate change.
Three of the D.C. Court of Appeals’ judges delivered climate-regulation opponents what can only be termed a righteous smackdown last week. Their opinion on the Environmental Protection Agency’s work to regulate greenhouse gases is, as much as any legal opinion can be, a delight to read.
I'm a longtime critic of the idea that "objectivity" is the true and only path to journalistic truth, and I believe that here at the Prospect, we prove it every day. It's perfectly possible to have a point of view and still produce journalism that is accurate and fair. The temptation to seize on the things that will make your opponents look bad is always there, but if you're mindful of it, you can retain your integrity.
Not everybody is so capable, however. Check out what happened when a reporter at the conservative website The Daily Caller got a hold of what he thought was gold, from a court filing by the Environmental Protection Agency.
The Clean Air Act, which has been taking a beating lately, falls under the EPA's jurisdiction, but in some ways, it's really a law about public health. Its goal is not to keep the air clean solely for the sake of atmospheric purity: polluted air exacerbates conditions like bronchitis, asthma, and heart disease. One of the law's earliest iterations, in 1963, established an air pollution program under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Public Health Service.
The Hill's E2 Wire is reporting that a Senate vote on EPA carbon regulations won't happen until next week. Although the White House handed out some tepid reassurance that it would not sell the EPA down the river, it doesn't sound like the administration will jump to the agency's defense.
The arguments against environmental regulation always include the pro-business folks who fear a huge economic hit. That underestimates business. It assumes every company, when faced with new regulations, would roll over, say, "Well, I guess we can't make profits any more," and die. It completely leaves out the other response regulation can inspire: innovation and competition.
In an effort to get ahead of the curve, Calpine Corporation, a company that builds power plants, has voluntary asked for a permit limiting the amount of carbon it can emit, according to the New York Times' Green, Inc., blog.