Enter your e-mail address to receive occasional updates and previews from The New Atlantis.
Fall 2015 • W. David Montgomery on why the encyclical's moral teaching requires better policy
Winter 2014 • Stephen D. Blackmer on his improbable journey from eco-activism to the priesthood
Winter 2014 • Lowell Pritchard on risk and uncertainty in environmental economics
Winter 2014 • Lee Lane on clashing worldviews, green politics, and a path forward
Spring 2014 •
Ronald Bailey on whether modern societies and free economies are antithetical to the flourishing of the natural world
Summer 2013 • Jonathan H. Adler disputes the notion that anti-regulation means anti-environment
Summer 2012 • Travis Kavulla on the myth of pristine wilderness and the need to manage nature
Spring 2012 • Robert Zubrin reveals the international campaign of coerced sterilization and abortion
Summer 2011 • David A. Murray
Spring 2011 • Jonathan H. Adler on cost-benefit analysis and the precautionary principleNext
April 15, 2008 •
On Monday, the Washington Times shocked observers when it reported that President Bush is poised to “change course and announce as early as this week that he wants Congress to pass a bill to combat global warming.” According to the article, President Bush is supposedly preparing a list of “principles” to guide lawmakers and is going to call for legislation addressing climate change directly (as opposed legislation mandating higher vehicle fuel efficiency or promoting nuclear power plants, both of which are a step removed from direct cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, and both of which have been supported by the administration in the past).
The Times explains the administration’s reasoning this way: “Bush administration officials have told Republicans in Congress that they feel pressure to act now because they fear a coming regulatory nightmare.” A similar story was published by the Associated Press on Monday.
Energy and manufacturing industry leaders have been warning lawmakers for years of an increasingly complicated maze of state efforts to address greenhouse emissions and climate change and the need for firm federal regulations to guide industry investments. While Wall Street dislikes regulation, it truly hates ambiguity; it would rather get fixed regulations so companies can begin to prepare for change than endless speculation and waiting. “This is an attempt to move the administration and the party closer to the center on global warming,” the Times quotes an administration source close to the White House who is familiar with the planning. Such a move could also bring the administration closer to Senator John McCain’s position on climate change.
It’s worth noting that nothing in the Times story comes out and clearly says the president is going to announce support for mandatory greenhouse gas emissions reductions, which the administration has consistently opposed. White House Press Secretary Dana Perino, when asked questions about the stories at the White House press briefing on Monday referred to establishing a “national goal.” She said the “regulatory path that we are on right now is not sustainable” and “we aren’t necessarily against cap and trade proposals.”
But Perino wouldn’t commit the White House to support for a legislative proposal per se. “We are considering how to move forward on the regulatory path that we have. We are considering how to respond to legislative proposals that are in front of Congress right now,” she said when pressed on whether the White House was prepared to support a legislative proposal to address climate change.
Perino was then pressed again as to whether the White House will specifically put forward a legislative proposal on climate change:
Reporter: Has there been no decision whether to put forth legislation, or is there a decision to do that?
Perino: That’s true.
Reporter: Is there a package that you’re developing that’s primarily legislation, or is it more regulatory in whatever it is that you --
Perino: I would say it’s neither.
But Perino also would not say that an announcement isn’t forthcoming. Question from reporter: “Are you saying nothing will be coming out imminently?” Perino: “I’m saying that — no, I’m not going to say that. There could be something. I just don’t have anything for you today.” Asked whether the announcement might come on Earth Day — next Tuesday, April 22nd — Perino said: “It could be next week, it could be never. I just don’t have anything for you.”
Some Republicans see the White House’s apparent shift as bad news. “Republican members of Congress who were briefed last week let top administration officials know that they think the White House is making a mistake, according to congressional sources and others familiar with the discussions,” the Times reported. Lawmakers who are less-than-happy with the White House’s change-of-course (if it happens): Reps. John Shimkus (R.-Ill.) and F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R.-Wisc.), according to the article. One Republican source in the AP story noted that “‘The meeting [on the Hill] was set up to float a few trial balloons’ and it did not go well, with some participants viewing it as ‛political appeasement’ on global warming.”
Meanwhile, the Senate is slated in June to debate a bipartisan climate change bill authored by Senators Joe Lieberman, (I.-Conn.) and John Warner, (R.-Va.), that would cap greenhouse gas emissions. (You can see that bill, in PDF format, here.)
The White House has clearly been making some moves on climate change recently. Earlier this month White House Council on Environmental Quality Chairman James Connaughton (the administration’s go-to guy on climate change) confirmed that he had met with Rep. Rick Boucher (D.-Va.) and Rep. Fred Upton (R.-Mich.), respectively the chairman and the ranking member of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Air Quality — the panel in charge of writing climate change legislation.
Ultimately, Perino refused to be pinned down on the issue when asked during Monday’s press briefing when an announcement would come. “We haven’t come forward yet and said definitively where we are, and that’s because we’re having a very robust discussion,” she said. She did, though, reiterate the White House’s opinion of the Lieberman-Warner bill, as well as of the general climate change regulatory framework:
Here in this country we are dealing with what we call a regulatory train wreck. We have several different laws that were never meant to deal with — to address climate change, heading down a path that we believe is not reasonable, nor sustainable, would hurt our economy, and is not good public policy. This would have the Clean Air Act, the Endangered Species Act, and the National Environmental Policy Act all addressing climate change in a way that is not the way that they were intended to....
We have been not shy about saying that we don’t support legislation that is currently on the Hill. We think that it would be bad for the economy, and that it wouldn’t — ultimately, it wouldn’t address the problem.
Perino noted that there will be a meeting with other major economic powers in Paris later this week that administration officials are slated to attend. The topic of climate change is expected to be on the table.
April 9, 2008 •
The new YouTube video posted below uses computer modeling to show how and where carbon dioxide is expelled by U.S. industrial and mobile sources that rely on fossil fuels. The video is the result of Project Vulcan, funded by NASA and DOE, and researchers at Purdue University. The video has received widespread attention for its visual impact: by overlaying a map of the United States with the high-speed animation of CO2 emissions, it creates an impression of life — like you’re watching the country breathe.
According to Purdue, Project Vulcan is expected to complement a CO2-monitoring satellite that NASA is slated to launch late this year. According to the researchers involved, Project Vulcan reveals new details about the sources of CO2 emissions and the regions where emissions are most prevalent. It “makes utterly clear...that CO2 emissions cannot be exclusively affixed to SUV drivers, manufacturers or large power producers; everybody is responsible,” said Kevin Gurney, an assistant professor of earth and atmospheric science at Purdue and the project leader. Although Gurney doesn’t want his team’s research “used to affix blame,” he hopes lawmakers will turn to it as they look for ways to address rising emissions levels. “Before now the only thing policymakers could do was take a big blunt tool and bang the U.S. economy with it,” Gurney said. “Now we have more quantifiable information about what is happening in neighborhoods, on roads and in industrial areas, and track the CO2 by the hour. This offers policymakers something akin to a scalpel instead.”