EPA's CO2 Scheme: the Most Ambitious Regulation Challenge in History?
Photo via World News
With the EPA moving ever closer to flat out declaring CO2 as a pollutant that's dangerous to public health, the idea of the regulatory mess the agency will have on its hands is becoming clearer and clearer. Heavy industry, vehicle emissions, and coal plants, oh my—the question remains exactly how the EPA will manage to regulate all the carbon that's spewed left and right by the likes of both car driving individuals and sprawling manufacturing companies. The New York Times stated outright that the EPA "has embarked on one of the most ambitious regulatory challenges in history."So how will they do it? The answer is: hopefully they won't have to.
The only thing that's really clear at this point is that just about everyone would prefer climate legislation be passed in Congress than have the EPA act as a watchdog. And that includes heavy polluting industries. They'd much rather see a carbon cap system put in place than have to adhere to strict regulatory standards (of course, how best to work out a carbon cap is a contentious issue, too).
Obama wants a federal law as well—which may be exactly why his EPA is presenting a sort of better-of-two-"evils" scenario for polluting companies. Publically touting the EPA regulation scenario should make coal, oil, and heavy industries much more inclined to accept his cap and trade system.
After all, assembling a regulatory system, though theoretically possible, would be nothing short of a bureaucratic nightmare. As the Times puts it:
"The move is likely to have a profound effect across the economic spectrum, affecting transportation, power plants, oil refineries, cement plants and other manufacturers. It sets the agency on a collision course with carmakers, coal plants and other businesses that rely on fossil fuels, which fear that the finding will impose complex and costly rules."
But the finding that's been sent to the White House declares that carbon dioxide is a dangerous pollutant. And once it's finalized and signed by Lisa Jackson, it will pave the way for the EPA to regulate heat trapping gases, most notably carbon dioxide, in a very big way. It'll allow
"quick federal regulation of motor vehicle emissions of heat-trapping gases and, if further actions are taken by the E.P.A., it could open the doors for regulatory controls on power plants, oil refineries, cement plants and other factories."
Profound effect indeed.
Again, how exactly they'd do that is another matter altogether. A move to make companies report their CO2 emissions shows this is no bluff. And it should indeed put pressure on those uncomfortable with straight up regulation to find a better solution—and that means we could be seeing Obama's cap and trade system put into action sooner rather than later. Maybe.