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Sunday, August 11, 2013
America is in the process of shooting itself in the foot. At a time when the U.S. economy is improving and offering relief to middle-class families, the people who run our government seem more determined than ever to dampen opportunities for prosperity.
Statistics show the U.S. economy finally is regaining strength. Domestic oil and natural gas production is climbing due to advanced technologies. U.S. manufacturing is experiencing an uptick while manufacturing in Europe and elsewhere is slowing. U.S. household net worth has reached an all-time high due to rising home prices, and the United States has replaced China as the most favorable place for foreign investment.
One would think the president, who called for a “rising, thriving middle class” in his 2013 State of the Union address, would celebrate this apparent success and its positive impact on American families. Instead, he and his administration are promulgating regulations that promise to short-circuit economic growth, jobs and opportunity because they apparently place a higher value on big government and the environmental movement than on the financial well-being of the American people.
As evidence, consider the behind-the-scenes way in which the administration apparently plans to justify the president’s war on climate change. On May 31, the administration quietly slipped an increase in the “social cost” of carbon into a rule on microwave ovens, raising carbon’s cost to $38 per metric ton in 2015 from $23.80. The change was not subjected to a public-comment period, reportedly leaving both the administration’s supporters and critics surprised by the way such an important policy was handled.
The price of carbon is a key factor in environmental rules. Regulators are expected to prove that the benefits of environmental regulations exceed the costs. By arbitrarily increasing the assigned cost of carbon, the administration will be able to put its thumb on the scale of the government’s cost-benefit analyses, making new carbon-cutting rules appear more cost-effective.
Observers say the new carbon figure is likely to lay the groundwork for myriad environmental regulations, including energy-efficiency standards for buildings, power plants and even vending machines. It also could stymie the growth in U.S. energy production and become a convenient excuse for the administration to deny granting a permit for the Keystone XL pipeline.
Environmentalists say the pipeline would encourage the development of Canada’s oil sands, which may be slightly more carbon-intensive than some U.S. crude oils but about the same as Venezuelan oil. But blocking the pipeline will not lead to reductions in global carbon emissions. As they know, Canadian officials already have stated that if the United States denies the pipeline’s permit, the oil sands will be developed anyway and shipped to other countries, including China, where environmental regulations are not as stringent.
The Keystone XL pipeline is a shovel-ready project that is the nation’s best hope for creating 20,000 construction jobs that are sorely needed in today’s economy. It also would provide safer transportation to refineries for domestic oil from Montana and North Dakota that is being shipped in railroad cars, reduce U.S. dependency on Middle Eastern oil, and contribute to the nation’s energy security.
In a public statement published in The Wall Street Journal, 16 prominent environmental scientists recently told public officeholders that “aggressive greenhouse-gas control policies are not justified economically.” They noted that the climate models linking CO2 emissions to climate change are greatly exaggerated, and, “there is no compelling scientific argument for drastic action to ‘decarbonize’ the world’s economy.” Yet President Obama is poised to move forward with a climate plan that could hinder America’s economic progress.
No one wants dirty air or water caused by environmental abuses. But climate change zealotry should not dictate economic policy. People need jobs.
By imposing a higher carbon cost without debate, the administration has stacked the deck in favor of new regulations that could eliminate the ability of many American families to reach for the American dream.
In our democratic republic, such critically important policies should not be devised solely by the executive branch and issued by fiat.
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