The New Mexican: Op-Ed – Pouncing on EPA for fun and profit?

February 2011

It’s a commie plot, we’ve been hearing for 40 years or so: The Clean Air Act, said its opponents, will be the death of the American economy. Our country’s economy for the past few years has indeed been sickly to all but favored fat cats — but whatever death rattles right-wingers hear have nothing to do with what pinko-baiting President Richard Nixon enthusiastically signed into law.

Even more galling to the righties must be the 2007 decision from the Supreme Court — their Supreme Court; how could it? — that greenhouse gases are pollutants under the Clean Air Act. So the Environmental Protection Agency got the go-ahead to figure out what gases constitute an assault on our lungs and take reasonable steps to reduce them.

Carbon dioxide, which we exhale with great regularity, is one of ‘em — but what animal life puffs into the air is faint compared with emissions from things like oil refineries and the coal-fired steam generators that spin so much of our electricity. Add to that the highly contested, yet incontestable, findings that CO2 is a heat-trapper contributing to global warming, and out of the woodwork march Big Energy’s useful, uh, minions:

Ain’t no proof that mankind has anything to do with global warming — so EPA’s got no business regulating carbon emissions, say some of industry’s congressional darlings; they’re pushing bills saying the agency is overstepping its authority. And who elected the EPA anyway? Didn’t the American people just throw out the Democratic House majority in favor of one advancing the will of the people?

Well, the Dems definitely are a minority in the House, and only a bare majority in the Senate. But does that mean Americans want environmental rules tossed out? And do Repubs think the only people with asthma, emphysema and other respiratory ailments are Democrats?

Righties and lefties alike are wont to categorize each other as pro- or anti-environment — but that’s crazy; the parties, and their more extreme adherents, might disagree on such things as government’s role in regulating behavior on behalf of the public welfare, but they can be surprisingly agreeable about goals — environmental ones included. Richard Nixon wasn’t caught up in any earth-friendly frenzy when he signed 1970s environmental laws; he could be both counterintuitive and in tune with his constituents. When it came to the environment, he was embracing a broadly popular issue.

Polls already are hinting that impressive percentages of voters in the districts of the more rabid anti-EPA representatives would rather leave the EPA, and its mandates, alone.

While the oil and coal lobbies stir up ideologues looking for commies under the couches of the EPA, hoping they’ll bellow to the rafters about emissions rules wrecking our nation’s economy, congressional Republicans as well as Democrats might note that, in the decades since the EPA got into the clean-air, clean-water and other environmental acts, America’s economy has become more than a dozen times bigger. Commie plot, indeed …

Count on Capitol Hill’s soberer minds to recognize the need for carbon reductions.

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