A sub-optimal course of action
Q: Given the gridlock in Congress over the climate bill, is the Obama administration's fallback strategy to let EPA regulate greenhouse gas emissions a good idea?
Like many questions regarding climate change, the answer has both a political and a substantive component. But in this case, neither provides an obvious response.
In terms of substance, EPA regulations may in fact begin to push the United States into a lower-carbon regime. This seems like a good outcome, but it also means that such regulations are almost certain to be overturned the moment a Republican is inaugurated. As a consequence, American firms would be forced to deal with a great deal of uncertainty about the future. The result would likely be short-term mitigation efforts, but little long-term investment. This is not conducive to the kind of economic transformation we need to reshape our energy consumption patterns into a less damaging configuration.
In terms of politics, vigorous EPA regulation would, of course, trigger a vicious and brutal political response. It will be denounced by conservatives, who will proceed to blame and all economic problems in the future on the new regulations. So, in the short-run, it would complicate the politics of dealing with climate change. But interestingly, over time as it became clear that using less carbon was not disastrous to the economy, and that instead it provided at least some short-term opportunities for new investment in locally-produced renewable energy and other initiatives, this would serve to defang criticism of climate action.
The reality is that reducing our dependence on foreign oil and producing more energy from "green" sources is a long-term win-win. But getting there is going to be difficult, and using regulatory action, while probably a net plus is certainly a sub-optimal course of action.
Posted by: Senator_Salesman | February 27, 2010 8:42 PM
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