CO2 restrictions: the real danger to “the health and welfare of current and future generations”
What is the biggest danger to Americans’ health and welfare? No, it’s not global warming — but it may well be global warming policy. In the name of fighting off hypothetical rises in average global temperature, our government has given itself draconian power to throttle energy sources that emits CO2 — which means, well over 80% of American production.
The first step was the Supreme Court’s decision last year that carbon dioxide, which every human breath produces and every green plant eats for breakfast, is a “pollutant” — and therefore subject to potentially unlimited control by the EPA. Now, the Obama EPA has announced that it plans to use its newfound power to the fullest.
From The Wall Street Journal:
The Obama administration declared Friday that carbon dioxide and five other industrial emissions threaten the planet. The landmark decision lays the groundwork for federal efforts to cap carbon emissions — at a potential cost of billions of dollars to businesses and government.
The Environmental Protection Agency finding that the emissions endanger “the health and welfare of current and future generations” is “the first formal recognition by the U.S. government of the threats posed by climate change,” EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson wrote in a memo to her staff.
The power that this decision gives the EPA is enormous.
Using the Clean Air Act, the EPA could raise fuel-efficiency standards for automobiles, such as by authorizing nationwide adoption of California’s rules for greenhouse-gas tailpipe emissions. [Given the state of California's economy, perhaps our policies should not be treated as a model.--AE]
That could require auto makers to produce more hybrid and electric vehicles, such as the Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid under development by General Motors Corp. The Volt, however, is expected to carry a sticker of about $40,000, or roughly twice the price of a conventional Chevrolet Malibu sedan.
In electric power, the EPA could force new power plants to include emissions-reduction technology, although it is unclear whether emerging technologies to capture carbon-dioxide emissions would be feasible.
The EPA could order older power plants to be retrofitted, such as with more-efficient boilers, and it could mandate more reliance on wind and other renewable energy if coal-fired power plants can’t be made to run more cleanly. That could present technological and infrastructure challenges.
In other words, the EPA can dictate what kind of cars we may drive, what energy sources we use for power, what expensive add-ons are necessary for power plants, and anything else that is connected to CO2 emissions–i.e., everything else. (Note: in the article, the Obama administration says it supports global warming legislation that will transfer much of the power to dictate emissions from the EPA to other regulators; I find this no more comforting than Soviet citizens used to find a shuffling of chairs at the Politburo.) All of this power is justified by the view that CO2 emissions are a negative thing — which is justified by the theory that the aggregate CO2 emissions of all the world’s people are raising the average global temperature.
But all of this evades the incredible value of CO2 emissions in every aspect of our lives. Carbon energy has been and remains vital to the industrial society that has doubled human life-expectancies, and, among a million other benefits, enables us to cope with all manner of changes in climate (natural or manmade). There is simply no economic evidence that other sources of energy (besides nuclear, also opposed by environmentalists) can produce comparable amounts of energy at affordable prices. Therefore, CO2 emissions are a vital component of a modern standard of living. To call carbon energy harmful because it may create some warming through CO2, is like calling eating harmful because human beings create waste, or breathing harmful because it creates…CO2.
Right now, carbon-based sources of energy produce the most, cheapest energy, period — while sunshine and wind gusts, despite decades of subsidies and propaganda, produces an expensive 1% of our energy. If scientists and entrepreneurs can discover and implement superior sources that happen not to omit CO2, at better prices than today’s energy sources, great. But whether that happens or not, we need to recognize that our “health and welfare” depend on free markets producing industrial scale energy above all else — and that anyone who tries to shut down life-giving coal plants and oil rigs, in the name of avoiding bad weather, is an enemy of humanity.