It seems the Democrat global warming alarmists in Congress are too afraid to impose the draconian liberty-sapping carbon emission policies that they've been feverishly dreaming of (and all their inevitable failures). So, they've been trying to pass that responsibility on to the EPA. So Rep. John Dingell (D-MI) took on the global warming Chicken Littles in his own party. Today's Wall Street Journal Opinion page recounts and comments on the story:
'A Glorious Mess' April 12, 2008; Page A8
Usually Congressional subcommittee hearings are as routine and tedious as they sound, but John Dingell managed to enliven one on Thursday. The venerable Michigan Democrat had the candor to point out that if climate change is really the transcendent challenge his party says it is, then Congress should bother to pass legislation, not outsource policy to the Environmental Protection Agency.
For months, the little tyrants of the global warming caucus – Barbara Boxer, Henry Waxman, Ed Markey – have been trying to force the EPA into declaring that carbon dioxide is a dangerous pollutant under current clean air laws, which could result in a cap-and-trade program by regulatory decree. Such posturing allows Democrats to display crocodile outrage and take credit for "leadership" on a popular goal, while shifting the blame for the costs of achieving it onto the EPA. In the bargain, it insulates them from political consequences and avoids the grubby business of actually crafting some global warming "solution."
The charade is too much for Mr. Dingell, the Chairman of the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee. Diverging from his prepared remarks, he said it was leading to "a glorious mess" and called the liberal bluff: "As a matter of national policy, it seems to me to be insane that we would be talking about leaving this kind of judgment, which everybody tells us has to be addressed with great immediacy, to a long and complex process of regulatory action."
If the conclusion on CO2 is desperately self-evident for the EPA, Mr. Dingell suggested, then the same should be true for the Democratic majority – even more so. Regulating carbon involves "inherently political decisions that should be made by the Congress. It should not fall to EPA by default."
Mr. Dingell also made a useful point about "the wonderful complexity" that would result assuming his colleagues got their way. If CO2 is regulated like a conventional pollutant under the 1970 Clean Air Act, it would trigger an economy-wide cascade of new rules and mandates. Just about everything that emits carbon would be affected, including cars, factories and power plants, but also farms, schools, hospitals, restaurants, office buildings, etc. Mr. Dingell was perhaps overstating his case when he said it had "the potential for shutting down or slowing down virtually all industry and all economic activity and growth," but not by much.
Mr. Dingell sardonically emphasized that he supports regulating greenhouse-gas emissions in a "comprehensive, exhaustive, thoughtful and intelligent way." But if he was only indulging what he views as a political inevitability, he also knows that the costs will fall disproportionately on some constituencies over others, most notably his blue-collar voters. His indiscretion underscored the separation between Democratic blandishments about painless global warming controls and the economic reality.
This isn't the first time that Mr. Dingell has had some fun with the politics of global warming and drawn the wrath of Nancy Pelosi and the rest of the green lobby. Last year he proposed a carbon tax to force his fellow Democrats to be more truthful about their environmental artifices. He may be one of Congress's last honest liberals.