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from Reihan Salam:

Technology, not regulation, is the best way to tackle climate change

 warming111

By all accounts, President Obama is deeply interested in his legacy. And though relatively few American voters see dealing with climate change as a top priority for the federal government, the president famously sees it as the most important issue he can address in his second term. Having failed to shepherd climate change legislation through Congress in 2009, when Democrats had large majorities in the Senate and the House, the Obama administration has shifted to using new regulations to achieve its environmental policy goals. This week, the Environmental Protection Agency introduced its Clean Power Plant Proposed Rule, a sweeping initiative that aims to reduce carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants.

The heart of the 2009 legislation -- the Waxman-Markey bill -- was a new cap-and-trade system, which would allow businesses to trade the right to emit a certain level of carbon. The new EPA regulations are actually much less flexible than the cap-and-trade system envisioned in Waxman-Markey, and they will reduce carbon emissions at a much higher cost to the economy.

So you might be tempted to think that we ought to embrace cap-and-trade. Conservatives often get lectured for failing to embrace cap-and-trade or stringent carbon regulation. Ezra Klein, writing for the liberal news site Vox, observes that Arizona Sen. John McCain favored a cap-and-trade system during his 2008 presidential campaign, and he takes today’s GOP to task for being less enlightened.

But if anything, it is McCain who was wrong in 2008, not Republicans who balk at policies that will raise energy prices. Indeed, rather than avoid talking about climate change and the environment, the right should go on the offense. While the president and his allies back price-hiking regulation, conservatives should call for accelerating price-lowering technological innovation.

from The Great Debate:

Antisocial genesis of the social cost of carbon

The day after his 2009 inauguration, President Barack Obama committed to “creating an unprecedented level of openness in government.”

He vowed to build on “transparency [that] promotes accountability by providing the public with information about what the government is doing,” “participation [that] allows members of the public to contribute ideas and expertise,” and “collaboration [that] actively engages Americans in the work of their government.”

from The Great Debate:

Public backs Obama on strong carbon controls

Southern Company's Plant Bowen in Cartersville, Georgia, in an aerial file photograph, Sept. 4, 2007. REUTERS/Chris Baltimore

When President Barack Obama announces his new climate change plan Tuesday, he will be addressing a voting public that, despite conventional wisdom, is ready to embrace his key proposal: Environmental Protection Agency regulation of carbon emissions from existing power plants.

from The Great Debate:

Obama’s worthy EPA nominee deserves support

The era of “simple” environmental problems is over. Today the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and state regulators face issues, like climate change, that are complex from all angles: scientific, economic and political. At the same time, some of the EPA’s regulatory tools—like the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), a law that was crafted decades ago—are cumbersome or inadequate. And there is virtually no chance that our gridlocked Congress will come to the rescue and agree on how to modernize reforms.

This complexity makes Gina McCarthy, President Obama’s nominee for EPA Administrator, precisely the kind of leader the agency needs. McCarthy is a strong environmental advocate, but she is pragmatic about how to achieve an end. She has worked across the aisle and with industry leaders to accomplish the EPA’s goals. As an executive at Intel, I’ve worked with McCarthy over the past four years, while she led the EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation. She is a problem solver who relies on science, economics and common sense.

from The Great Debate:

The best solution for climate change is a carbon tax

With Lisa Jackson, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, stepping down, President Barack Obama is losing one of the few people left in Washington who was willing to speak up about global warming and to push for significant measures to curb its impact. During her tenure, Ms. Jackson was frequently denounced by GOP members of Congress and all too often reined in by Obama. Despite his and Congress’ failure to pass legislation addressing global warming, Ms. Jackson advanced a regulatory agenda to pick up some of the slack.

She managed to see that fuel efficiency standards will increase by 2025, enact stricter pollution controls that must be met before any construction of new coal-fired power plants, and established EPA’s “endangerment finding,” bringing carbon dioxide and five other greenhouse gases (GHGs) under the Clean Air Act. Her departure, however, highlights the failings of the Obama administration to address global warming in a significant way. In his second term, the president can change that by pushing to enact a carbon tax.

from Environment Forum:

Thank you, EPA: U.S. solar companies

tomwernerMany businesses chafed on Monday at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's declaration that greenhouse gas emissions endanger human health.

But executives at the two largest U.S. solar power companies took a shine to the statement, which clears the way for federal regulation and came as a global climate summit opened in Copenhagen.  Now they'll keep their eyes on Congress to act on future legislation.

from Financial Regulatory Forum:

US EPA moves on emissions as Congress stalls

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Director Lisa Jackson announces a new Obama administration position that greenhouse gasses are a threat to public health at the EPA in Washington, December 7, 2009. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst  By Timothy Gardner

WASHINGTON, Dec 7 (Reuters) - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Monday cleared the way for regulation of greenhouse gases without new laws passed by Congress, reflecting President Barack Obama's commitment to act on climate change as a major summit opened in Copenhagen. 

The EPA ruling that greenhouse gases endanger human health, widely expected after it issued a preliminary finding earlier this year, will allow the agency to regulate planet-warming gases even without legislation in Congress.

from James Pethokoukis:

EPA carbon ruling creates an even bigger ‘uncertainty tax’ for business

Call it the Uncertainty Tax. I mean, it is not enough that the American private sector has to deal with the mercurial state of healthcare, financial and tax reform, now it has to calculate the likelihood and impact of  the Obama administration unilaterally imposing draconian carbon rules? Even the EPA calls such efforts inefficient and economically disruptive. A few other thoughts:

1) Expect loads of litigation.

2) Don't expect this to nudge Congress into passing cap-and-trade in 2010.

3)  Did I mention loads of litigation?

4)  It this looks likely, Congress would probably strip the EPA of its authority to do so.

from The Great Debate:

U.S. environmental agency walks a tightrope on CO2

John Kemp Great DebateThe Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)'s proposed findings on greenhouse gas emissions were a carefully worded attempt to appease climate-change activists while containing hostility from business and energy organizations or Congress.

The "endangerment" and "contribute" findings, that greenhouse gases posed a danger to human health, were designed to provide clear signs of progress on a signature issue for the administration while preserving maximum flexibility.

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