Thursday, March 10, 2011

The U.S. Greenhouse Gas Tarantella


(photo by RayS http://www.flickr.com/photos/rays/2269252723/)

I truly feel bad for the EPA.  As part of the Executive Branch, they are beholden to the various political winds that blow when we change leadership in our nation.  Under George W. Bush, the EPA was not particularly interested or politically able to develop policies to manage greenhouse gases.  Indeed, the President did not recognize the reality of the issue of global climate change until late in his presidency.  But, he did recognize it eventually.

I think what most Americans don’t realize is that the EPA has been required to regulate greenhouse gases as per a Supreme Court decision.  To make a long story short, the congress has been unable to develop a comprehensive energy policy in our nation in partnership with our President for the last two decades.  The most recent attempt failed in 2010 prior to the midterm elections when the Senate failed to pass the Kerry Boxer bill. 

Because of the failure of the legislative branch of government to develop new policy around unregulated greenhouse gases, several individuals, states, and organizations have sued the EPA claiming that they were in some way damaged due to the impacts of greenhouse gases and global climate change.  The courts, particularly in the case of Massachusetts et al. v. EPA, have sided with the plaintiffs in recognizing that the EPA is not fulfilling its legislative mandate to protect US citizens from air pollution within the guidelines of the Clean Air Act.

The Massachusetts et al. v. EPA case decided by the Supreme Court required EPA to develop some regulatory guidance for greenhouse gas pollution.

So, if you are a member a congress who does not want the US to change its energy policy at all, you would try to limit the ability of the EPA to regulate greenhouse gases.  That is exactly what is happening currently.  Various members of congress are seeking to remove EPA’s authority and funding to regulate greenhouse gases.

That is why I feel sorry for the folks at the EPA.  Here’s essentially how I see it.  The scientific community urges action to develop a greenhouse gas policy.  Political interests, largely from hydrocarbon energy-rich states, seek to limit government’s role in regulating greenhouse gases.  Because the EPA is told by its leaders not to develop a greenhouse gas policy, they are sued by organizations impacted by global climate change.  Those suing win their cases thereby requiring the EPA to regulate.  Some organizations are unhappy that EPA is now complying with the law, so they urge congress to limit EPA’s ability to regulate by changing the laws and the funding of EPA.

Does this make sense?  By the way, we are the only developed nation in the world that does not have a modern comprehensive energy policy and the only one that does not in some way regulate major greenhouse gases.  I hate to do this, but I have to quote Charlie Sheen:  Winning!

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