Hot Air on Greenhouse Gas

Last month, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson responded to Senator Jay Rockefeller’s (D-WV) questions about potential greenhouse gas regulation under the Clean Air Act. A careful reading of Jackson’s answers shows that EPA’s threats to use the Clean Air Act to force nationwide greenhouse gas reductions are a paper tiger and, if implemented, such actions will not result in any substantive decrease in greenhouse gas emissions during president Obama’s term.

Recall that there are two routes available to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. The first is “cap and trade,” along the lines of the Waxman-Markey bill that is currently stalled in the Senate. This is the method that environmentalists and their supporters in Congress prefer, for a couple of reasons. Cap and trade would attach monetary value to waste by-products, chiefly carbon dioxide and methane, and would allow certain carbon speculators – the name Al Gore springs immediately to mind – to grab even more cash in the resultant massive redistribution of wealth.

Equally important, cap and trade could be implemented relatively quickly. The Clean Air Act is a terribly clunky bit of legislation that has been amended a number of times since it was initially passed in its current form in 1970. Creating greenhouse gas regulations under that Clean Air Act would take a lot longer than alarmists are willing to wait, given that this year, like every year, represents the last chance to act “before it’s too late.”

The Clean Air Act limits EPA’s regulatory authority to “command and control” measures. That is, the agency has to go through an exhaustive process to determine appropriate control technologies, promulgate rules that set limits on emissions for different industry sectors and then incorporate those limits into individual permits that govern the operations of each and every facility subject to the rule in question. Industry hates command and control, because it’s a much more intrusive means of regulation, as compared to trading programs. Thus, EPA and the Obama administration have wielded the possibility of implanting command and control type greenhouse gas regulations under the Clean Air Act as a cudgel, not because they actually want to go through the Clean Air Act process, but because it’s a convenient threat designed to force some version of cap and trade through Congress.

Senator Rockefeller’s letter to Jackson contained a number of questions that appeared designed to call the Agency’s bluff. Indeed, Rockefeller raised a number of the same issues that I raised when I wrote about this issue on these very pages not so long ago. Reading Jackson’s careful, somewhat tepid, answers to Rockefeller’s queries, one is not left with the impression of an administrator happily charging forward with a new batch of planet-saving regulations. Rather, it appears to me that Jackson is de facto admitting – albeit reluctantly – that there is little that EPA can do about greenhouse gas emissions in the short term if a cap and trade bill doesn’t come through. Consider a few salient points:

  • Jackson said that EPA would start including greenhouse gases in permits starting in 2011. Identifying greenhouse gas emissions in permits is not the same as limiting those emissions. This is strictly an administrative move that would have no practical effect outside of generating a bit more work for people like me who push through the agency’s required pile of paperwork.
  • Jackson said that EPA would phase in greenhouse gas permitting for large sources between 2011 and 2013 and that permitting of smaller sources would not come into play any earlier than 2016.
  • Rockefeller asked Jackson how EPA would go about setting Best Available Control Technology (BACT) requirements for new projects, with respect to greenhouse gases. This is an important point, because BACT represents the first opportunity for EPA to impose requirements for greenhouse gas control. Essentially, when a new, big project is proposed, the developer must demonstrate that the controls used meet the regulatory definition of BACT. Since nobody actually controls greenhouses gases today, it’s reasonable to ask the question: how will USEPA establish BACT when no controls – much less “Best Available” controls – have been proven in anything but pilot scale studies? Jackson’s response can be distilled down to this: USEPA has no idea what BACT should be for greenhouse gases, but will continue to “review and analyze options” for such controls. Bottom line: nothing will happen for a long time to come.
  • Finally, Rockefeller asked how a cap and trade bill would affect the nation’s beleaguered manufacturing sector. Jackson claimed that the impact of Waxman-Markey, or something like it, would be “effectively nil.” This is utter nonsense, since a cap and trade bill would undoubtedly increase the cost of energy and, accordingly, increase the cost of domestic manufacturing. However, the fact that Jackson would make such an outrageous claim in the context of her response is another bit of evidence that demonstrates how EPA desperately wants a cap and trade bill, instead of trying to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act.

Given the stunning revelations over the last few months about the bullying, misrepresentation and outright fraud that characterize a disturbing portion of international climate change science, it’s not at all surprising to find that Obama’s EPA is desperately hoping to influence the Congressional agenda on the issue.

However, Lisa Jackson’s less-than-convincing arguments with respect to controlling greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act do nothing to help the alarmist cause. It has quite the opposite effect: Jackson’s official response to the queries posed by a coal-state Senator who belongs to her administration’s party shows that this EPA administrator knows that she doesn’t have a leg to stand on.

  • Sam Deakins

    Another Obamist with no clue. The endgame for Obama and his statists is simply to redistribute jobs and wealth to the inner cities. It's called REPARATIONS, folks.

    • Arjen

      Well said Sam, amen…

  • JosephWiess

    They have a clue, but it's a very low wattage flashlight at the end of a very long tunnel. They want to put so many taxes on people that there'll be nothing left of your paycheck when they are through.
    The way around this nonsense is to hit them with science and keep hitting them with the truth. One day, maybe, we'll get constitutionalists into office and all this crap will go away.

    • Swemson

      As usual, Mr. Weiss hits the nail on the head!

      And the first bit of science, that should be repeated at the beginning and end of every speech or article critical of AGW & C&T, is the one most obvious one that everyone seems to forget:

      Warming is good!

      Our climate is ALWAYS changing, but the only type of climate change that poses a threat to mankind is extreme cooling, and we can't do anything about either, other than learn to adapt to it. If you doubt this, ask yourself where you'd rather to live, on a balmy island in the tropics, or in Northern Greenland with the Eskimos. Everyone knows which type of environment is more conducive to life. It’s all a LIE!.

      The second fact that should be repeated again and again is that any effect that CO2 has on global temperatures is statistically insignificant. The culprit according to the climate alarmists is man made CO2 resulting from our use of hydro-carbon based fossil fuels. The total CO2 in the atmosphere is currently about 387ppm (1 part in 2,600). Only 4% of that (16ppm) comes from our use of fossil fuels. That's only 1 molecule out of every 62,500. Anyone who believes that that's what causing climate change is either a idiot or a liar.

      Most of us understand the greenhouse gas theory now, and it is valid, however 95% of all greenhouse gasses is water vapor. The warmer it gets, (It's the sun stupid the more the solubility of CO2 in the ocean decreases, which brings more and more CO2 into the atmosphere. Natural cyclical warming raises CO2 levels, not the other way around as the climate alarmists claim. What most people are shocked by however, is what these same LIARS were saying about the effect of CO2, only 35 years ago. They said that the gases from vehicle emissions were blocking sunlight from REACHING the earth, thereby causing the earth to become COLDER!

      If you doubt that check out page 2 of the following article from Time magazine:,9171,…

      Did you ever notice how everyone complains about the weather, but only the Democrats try to legislate it?

  • DrAhha

    AMEN, Joseph!

  • TonyM

    The sad part l is that the supposed need to limit the emission of greehouse gasses is based on junk science and the fantasies of a worldwide environmental movement that seeks to re-distribute wealth and limit economic growth, all in the name of saving the planet. In reality, it is just another way for the US to commit economic suicide and give up its place as a world leader. I am sure the Obama administration is ecstatic about this prospect.

  • BS1977

    We have know nothing bureaucrats posing as scientific experts, air headed supervisors posing as HOmeland Security officials, hack politicians posing as administrators of our Treasury….people who should be working at McDonalds running our trillion dollar deficits. Look at our roiling society….foreclosures, bankruptcies, soaring unemployment, outsourced manufacturing, foreign debts, illegal immigration, all being handled by shrugging incompetents. I would like to see someone like Mitt Romney go for PResident….He may not have all the answers, but he has more than the present gang of liberal hacks. Our nation is in crisis, in case you hadn't heard. Greenhouse gases……yeah, let's worry about cow methane and tail pipes as millions are out of work.

    • WilliamJamesWard

      After reading what you say I understand that every item is on my list and as I was
      jumping out of the window in despair I realized I was in the basement, only luck in
      a long time, maybe my cruve is changing…………Back on track, will vote conservative
      and "Warm is good" as Swemson says.
      Oh good grief you added more good reasons to get back in the window, seasawing
      like this is to much for and old man. Hopefully there will be enough good people
      step up to the plate and take on the work necessary to clean house.
      Regards, William

  • USMCSniper

    In Western Europe, in the preindustrial Middle Ages, man’s life expectancy was 30 years. In the nineteenth century, Europe’s population grew by 300 percent—which is the best proof of the fact that for the first time in human history, industry gave the great masses of people a chance to survive.

    If it were true that a heavy concentration of industry is destructive to human life, one would find life expectancy declining in the more advanced countries. But it has been rising steadily. Here are the figures on life expectancy in the United States (from the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company):

    1900—47.3 years
    1920—53 years
    1940—60 years
    1968—70.2 years (the latest figures compiled)
    Anyone over 30 years of age today, give a silent “Thank you” to the nearest, grimiest, sootiest smokestacks you can find.
    Ayn Rand

  • BS1977

    Everyone wants a good, stable society….and a pretty predictable future of goodness for the kids and their kids…that's all anyone really wants…..Equality of opportunity, not equality of outcome!! that's the American Dream….football, apple pie, Mother's Day, good jobs, good Hollywood Movies, nice restaurants, big beautiful businesses and top quality hospitals, funny TV shows, beautiful women, freedom, liberty, fair play, law and order, big farms producing lots of great food, people playing volleyball on the week ends…you know….stop the illegal immigration,the foreclosurea and business closings….get America back on track.

  • Design a logo for $5

    You can definitely see your enthusiasm in the paintings you write. The arena hopes for more passionate writers like you who aren’t afraid to say how they believe. Always follow your heart.

  • Swemson

    You should check out Front Page's sister site, as well

  • Swemson