At the same time the Browner-led negotiations were taking place, observes Rep. Darrel Issa (R-Calif.), ”the government was also engaged in bailout talks with General Motors (GM) and Chrysler,” resulting in “an ownership stake for the federal government of 61% of GM and 8% of Chrysler, respectively.” Whether Browner literally made the auto industry an offer it could not refuse, with the sweetener of financial assistance also contingent on the industry’s embrace of GHG regulation, we may never know.
This much is clear. By reconsidering California’s request for a waiver, the EPA created the threat of a regulatory patchwork, enabling the White House to offer ”protection” in the form of the joint GHG/fuel economy standards rule. The protection “fee” was the auto industry’s unquestioning support for the joint rule and its prerequisite, EPA’s endangerment rule — the regulatory proceeding in which the EPA concluded that GHG emissions endanger public health and welfare.
Thus, the Auto Alliance became the key industry lobby opposing Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s resolution to overturn the EPA’s endangerment rule. The Alliance warned that if the endangerment rule were overturned, the “historic agreement” would unravel, confronting automakers with “the alarming possibility of having to comply with multiple sets of conflicting fuel economy standards.”
That is correct, but only because EPA Administrator Jackson, reversing her predecessor’s decision, granted California the waiver to establish GHG emission standards for new motor vehicles. An obvious solution would be to overturn the waiver. After all, the Energy Policy and Conservation Act, which created the federal fuel economy program, clearly prohibits states from adopting laws or regulations ”related to fuel economy standards,” and the California motor vehicle emissions program is at least nine-tenths fuel economy regulation. By granting the waiver, the EPA effectively repealed a major provision of federal law. To reach the “historic agreement,” Team Obama had to violate the separation of powers. Of course, neither Government Motors nor any other participant in the hush-hush negations will ever fess up to that fact.
Mirage of Regulatory Certainty
The auto industry is not the only target of the greenhouse protection racket. For years, climate activists have been saying that only a legislated cap-and-trade program can end the ”regulatory uncertainty” facing electric utilities and energy-intensive manufacturers. But who created the uncertainty in first place if not the self-same advocates of cap-and-trade? If they were serious about relieving uncertainty, they would disavow their campaign to impose costly new mandates on the economy.
Businesses that lobby for cap-and-trade in the hope of obtaining regulatory certainty should read the fine print.
Consider the much-ballyhooed American Power Act, sponsored by Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.). It requires U.S. GHG emissions to decline 83% below 2005 levels by 2050 (p. 266), which supposedly would stabilize atmospheric concentrations at 450 parts per million (ppm) and prevent global warming from exceeding 2°C (3.6°F). However, the bill contains an escalator clause setting the stage for increases in regulatory stringency well beyond the bill’s explicit emission-reduction targets.
Specifically, Kerry-Lieberman requires the EPA to identify (a) all the climate-related risks that won’t be prevented by limiting CO2-equivalent concentrations to 450 ppm or global warming to 2°C, and (b) “alternative thresholds or targets that may more effectively limit the risks” of climate change (p. 274). Thus, the bill sets up the EPA to advocate reducing CO2-equivalent concentrations to 350 ppm — the new politically-correct “stabilization” target endorsed by Al Gore, James Hansen, the Center for Biological Diversity, and numerous other climate activists.
Nor is the Kerry-Lieberman bill’s exemption for small business all that it appears to be. Yes, the cap-and-trade program only applies to large industrial facilities — those emitting at least 25,000 metric tons per year of CO2-equivalent GHGs (p. 473). However, the bill’s “findings,” which present the “scientific” rationale for controlling GHG emissions, would empower eco-litigation groups to sue smaller entities for their alleged contribution to climate-related “injuries.” This is particularly worrisome, because state attorneys general and environmental groups are already suing CO2-emitting companies for their supposed injuries to life and property.