GOP swallows blue pill of delusion, votes to strip EPA of greenhouse gas authority

Posted on April 8, 2011

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It’s no surprise that the Republicans in the House of Representatives want to do away with the EPA’s rules on greenhouse gas emissions. But H.R.910, the bill to strip EPA authority over greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act, provides at least two examples of how Republicans have chosen the blue pill of delusion instead of the red pill of reality.

Back in March of 2009, then Minority Leader Boehner called the cap-and-trade legislation “code for increasing taxes, killing American jobs, and raising energy costs for consumers.” In response, I wrote that “a cap-and-trade system makes carbon a tradeable commodity like pork bellies or oil, and it’s fundamentally a capitalist approach to reducing carbon emissions. (emphasis added)” Capitalist, as in market-based and supposedly the opposite of GOP-hated taxation. Yet Boehner then labeled a market-based solution to repair damage to a shared resource a “tax” because it was politically convenient.

And now, as Speaker for the House, Boehner and his fellow House Republicans have given a similarly convenient name to H.R.910, the “Energy Tax Prevention Act of 2011.” Just as price increases driven by market forces are not tax increases, neither are price increases driven by government regulation. Not everything that increases the prices of energy or food or municipal water treatment is a tax. We don’t call it a tax increase when we pay a little more for our childrens’ toys to be free of lead paint, or when we pay a little more for our electricity because our utilities have to scrub out sulfur dioxide in order to protect our water supply and forests from acid rain. And we wouldn’t call it a tax break if our cars suddenly cost a little less because automakers were no longer required to include smog-control systems and we were all permitted to breath smog-choked air.

The other example relates to Section 3 of H.R.910. Everyone who cares about the bill at all knows that the bulk of the bill, Section 1, is focused on eliminating the EPA’s authority to regulate greenhouse gases. But Section 3 is focused on partially repealing a part of the Clean Air Act as it relates to greenhouse gases from automobiles. When the Clean Air Act was passed, Congress permitted the EPA to grant waivers to California if that state wanted to implement automobile pollution standards that were tighter than the federal standards. Since then, a host of other states (representing in combination 38% of the population of the US) have also decided to use California’s pollution standards as their own and thus fall into the same waivers granted by the EPA. H.R.910 Section 3 would eliminate the EPA’s ability to issue waivers as they relate to pollution standards based on greenhouse gas emissions.

Last I knew, Republicans are supposed to support limited government and states’ rights. But in this case, the House Republicans voted for larger government and against states’ rights in a move tailored to satisfy big business, namely the automotive industry. This hypocrisy is a surprise to no-one who has followed the GOP for more than a couple of weeks – when forced to choose between economics and civic ideals, the GOP always follows the money.

Before H.R.910 passed yesterday with all the House Republicans (and a few Democrats) voting in favor, the House rejected a number of amendments. One failed amendment would have given H.R.910 an accurate and genuine name: the “Dirty Air Act.” Instead, the GOP joined Cypher in wishing away reality as they swallowed their blue pill and turned their backs upon the desert of the real.

Image Credit:
Warner Brothers, via Wikipedia

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