Saturday, April 18, 2009

EPA GHG Endangerment Proposal: "A Game Changer"

One day after the U.S. EPA's historic proposed endangerment finding involving greenhouse gases, the sentiment across the country is that the Obama Administration's action has changed the political landscape.

U.S. Rep. Edward Markey, chairman of a U.S. House Energy Committee subcommittee that will begin hearings next week on legislation calling for a GHG cap-and-trade system and a long-time supporter of GHG reductions, characterized the decision as "a game changer," The Wall Street Journal reported today.  "It's now no longer a choice between doing nothing.  It is now a choice between regulation and legislation."
Consequently, a few things are clearer today:
  • The U.S. is going to have a GHG emissions reduction scheme either through legislation or regulation.
  • Congress is likely to take a more flexible (including, most importantly establishing a cap-and-trade system) approach to reducing GHG emissions; this is largely linked to the fact that the multiple stakeholder groups will have greater influence over elected representatives and senators than the "unelected" regulators in the EPA.
  • No industry sector will want to be left out of the political discussions; expect increased lobbying of politicians as well as more TV and radio ads by stakeholder groups aiming to frame the overall issue; from past experience industry is well aware that it is easier to have "a seat at the table" during the legislative process as contrasted to the regulatory process.
  • Left-wing and right-wing talkers, bloggers and other "self-anointed experts" will attempt to rally their own bases; whether this will add anything to the overall debate is questionable at best; what it will do is give the talkers another issue to ruminate over for the foreseeable future and a good way to increase ratings.  
  • The U.S. has increased its global credibility in terms of addressing climate change; but the U.S. is so far behind the European Union that even with an enormous effort this year, the U.S. is unlikely to take the global leadership role away from the Europeans (a role, incidentally, that the Europeans greatly cherish).
To paraphrase former U.K. Prime Minister Winston Churchill, this is not the beginning of the end...rather it is the end of the beginning.

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