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Opiates & Masses

3 Jun

I am hoping to have a review up shortly of the recent book  The New Holy Wars: Economic Religion Versus Environmental Religion in Contemporary America by Robert H. Nelson of the University of Maryland and CEI.  Short version: While I am a bit tired of the “environmentalism = religion” meme, Nelson takes a much more scholarly, comparative, and nuanced approach than the less-reliable rants at or the annual anti-Earth Day barrage of op-eds from the Ayn Rand Institute (which, ironically, sometimes appear to be recycled…).  While Nelson’s economics vs. environmentalism framing reduces the need for this semantic discussion, I am still a bit troubled by the literal use of religion to describe what I would generally refer to as a worldview, doctrine, framework, or ideology.  In light of this post promising to publish a review soon, here is Professor Nelson talking about some related issues to whet your appetite:


On the Highway to the Endangered Zone

1 Jun

Over at MasterResource, the Competitive Enterprise Institute’s Marlo Lewis offers a definitive takedown of the various objections to S.J.Res.26, Senator Murkowski’s disapproval resolution to rein in EPA Clean Air Act authority over greenhouse gas emissions.  Focusing on the arguments offered by former EPA Administrator Russell Train in a letter to Senate leadership, Lewis gets it right in terms of both the constitutional issues with EPA’s Clean Air Act expansion as well as the practical incongruence of such an approach.  It is definitely worth the read.

While Lewis is more concerned about the establishment of  national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS) for greenhouse gases, I am perhaps more troubled by the less-obviously problematic enforcement of an array of technology-forcing standards on individual products/industries, including medium- and heavy-duty vehicles, aircraft, ocean-going vessels, and nonroad vehicles.  NAAQS for greenhouse gas emissions would obviously affect a larger swath of business in a shorter timeframe, but the thought of a combination of a tailored ambient standard with a series of individual product technology-forcing standards by EPA bureaucrats keeps me awake at night.  While the recent experience of joint EPA/NHTSA rulemaking  on light-duty vehicle greenhouse gas emissions & fuel economy may have calmed some people’s fears about EPA’s potential interventions, I am certainly not one of them.  EPA’s light-duty vehicle rule involvement was made much easier by the existing blue print (backed by decades worth of NHTSA experience) for CAFE implementation and the general similarities of all vehicles within the class.  Given that Clean Air Act authority offers the ability to develop standards related to fuel efficiency, fuel content, vehicle technology, and use, there could easily be complete overhaul of much more sensitive industries within the fields of transportation, trade, and recreation.

While Obama will inevitably veto any resolution, there are also some very interesting election year politics and mass communicatin’ that may be seen in the June 10 vote.  If I was a betting man, I’d guess that the Murkowski resolution would be narrowly defeated.  However, I imagine there will be enough Democratic support to pass a compromise version of something similar to Senator Rockefeller’s resolution that would disapprove of  EPA regulation of greenhouse gases from stationary industrial sources (and will likely be amended to include language in support of EPA’s tailoring rule).  This approach appears mealy-mouthed enough of a conclusion to satisfy electioneering politicians, while avoiding the overhyped concerns expressed by Administrator Jackson about the effect of Murkowski’s resolution on the light-duty vehicle rule.  However, the intensity of grassroots opposition to anything resembling cap-and-tax (perhaps thrid only to health care objections and concerns and taxes generally) combined with the experience of the Senate  voting overwhelmingly  at the beginning of the session to prohibit the use of reconciliation for a climate change bill makes me think that we could see something unexpected on the Murkowski resolution.