The EPA: They Don't Need No Stinkin' Climate Treaty

There was lots of fuss in Copenhagen as masses of party attendees emitted more than 46,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide just getting to and from there. They damned the wickedness of the rich nations (who made possible the aircraft in which they traveled) in poisoning the atmosphere and then lamented the failure of President Obama to work his magic and pull a treaty out of somebody's hat -- most anybody's hat but their own. Even so, and despite the sulphurous fumes still emitted by the president of the United States, they probably had a good time enjoying the first-world delights of Copenhagen, including the prostitutes available to them gratis. Perhaps it will have a cathartic effect, but that seems unlikely.

The best they could come up with was a nonbinding accord to curb global warming. President Obama predicted that it would probably be endorsed by a plenary session of the conference. He then departed for Washington before the plenary session actually voted. He cleverly observed that, despite the unprecedented although feeble outcome, and the far less than even modest expectations, "we will not be bound by anything that took place today." Huh? In the end, the nonbinding accord was not endorsed. Instead, it was merely "taken note of" and viewed as "binding" on whatever countries "endorsed" it, whatever that means, which seems inconsistent with President Obama's earlier statement about not being bound.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon expressed hopes that a binding treaty might come along late in 2010. The Japanese prime minister called the taking note a "a major step forward," while German Chancellor Angela Merkel had "mixed feelings." Some protesters carried signs proclaiming "climate shame." In short, the much touted Copenhagen conference ended with a whimper.

But don't fret. The Environmental Protection Agency is on the job and can do just about as much damage to the U.S. economy, and thereby to that of the world, without a treaty. Yes! It Can! Si! Se Puede!

Republican members of Congress who contended that President Obama needed "Congress to deliver on any commitments he makes to reduce global warming gases" were probably sniffing fairy dust, and in any event no such commitments were made. Had that happened, getting the two-thirds Senate approval for a treaty (required by Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution) would have been out of the question. Nevertheless, there are many things President Obama can do without congressional consent. Getting a multi-billion dollar annual appropriation to fund "developing" countries to the point that they can emit only their fair share of carbon equivalents may have been a problem, but only a minor one.

The Environmental Protection Agency, now under President Obama's control, has massive powers previously granted by Congress and can do just about anything in the environmental arena that President Obama wants. We should have caught on to this mess ages ago, but apparently we didn't. Administrative and executive agencies have tremendous quasi-legislative power and discretion, so long as they act within the expansive parameters established by Congress. That's a fact of administrative law, and has been since numerous "independent" and "executive" agencies were given sweeping quasi-legislative powers back during FDR's New Deal. Congress has, to put it blandly, been overly generous.