A lead story in Wednesday’s trade press publication E&E Daily was “Energy, fighting EPA at the core of GOP jobs agenda”. This is true, but also reveals what may be the greatest gap between Obamanomics and an approach to governance that most Republicans claim to support:
- Obama treats the energy sector like a centrally planned jobs program, putting the boot on the neck of the stuff that works while ‘creating’ politically desired but economically unsustainable positions making politically desired but economically undesirable products. Republicans argue that if wind- and solar-powered electricity, pioneered in the 1890s, work then they will work but in the meantime creating jobs in the energy sector means getting your boot off the neck of the stuff that works.
- Obama and his team have long argued that their costly regulations will actually create jobs. Of course, every program, regulation and even hurricane “creates jobs”, just not on net. The administration either doesn’t get ‘net’, or thinks you will be persuaded by ‘the seen’ and imagine there is no unseen.
EPA administrator Lisa Jackson embarked upon a campaign to advance these absurd arguments in February, arguing that, e.g., if she adopts a rule requiring you to do something costly or even prematurely destroy capital, why, you’ll have to hire someone to do it!
The WSJ accurately characterized this philosophy: “In other words, the government should harm an industry and force it to ruin working assets so maybe other people can clean up the mess.”
Obama administration “green jobs” emissary Jackson also said these will require many more new environmental regulators. Yes, she said that, risible dogma that was repeated by administration apologists as recently as this week on NPR’s Diane Rehm Show. So they aren’t giving up on it.
Except… On the Friday before this past long holiday weekend, President Obama somewhat buried a rational decision if a decision, like Thursday’s speech announcing Son of Stimulus, rooted entirely in his own political needs.
He overruled his EPA and suspended pending, very costly if purely discretionary new rules on ground level ozone that would have placed 85 percent of the country in “non-attainment” with the Clean Air Act (CAA), including the electorally critical heartland, meaning most new economic activity requiring a permit from EPA would be unable to attain such permits.
Delaware Sen. Tom Carper (D) put on the Orwell in speaking to E&E about the rule, saying “It’s not inexpensive for industry,” which is code for the economy. EPA’s own analysis estimated that it would have cost up to $90 billion a year. Again, it was also purely discretionary.
In suspending that rule — after 20 months of cost to taxpayers, producers and the economy in responding to its proposal and delaying projects as a result — Obama inescapably tossed aside his own absurd stance that costly rules create jobs. If it were true, how could he possibly abandon the rule?
Obama simply determined he needed a political talking point to respond to Republican charges that he is inflexibly cramming down green-demanded rules at the expense of jobs.
He will raise his eyebrows in that ‘watch what the rubes will fall for’ expression he cannot seem to shake even now that he is President of the United States, and note that, why, in September I suspended a major EPA rule, proving you’re wrong.
Unspoken, except by the well-versed Republican, will be two things. First, Obama’s own argument for doing so — now is not the time so he will do it in 2013 — was that he wants the economy to recover before resuming killing it.
Second, this was just one of seven EPA rules dominating House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s list of “Top 10 Job-Destroying Regulations“. These rules are collectively known in DC as “the train wreck”. His rules still threaten rolling blackouts, for example (and worse, in the event a recovery ever takes root).
This was the one rule Obama could most politically afford to dump — though the greens didn’t get the memo, yet– because although like all of his rules this was discretionary, the relevant CAA provision requires a review anyway in 2013. That is, assuming he gets re-elected, all he did was slightly delay the crackdown.
Indeed, a headline in E&E Daily right below this was “Obama to hold the line on other U.S. EPA rules — Senate Dems”. Obama’s move was pure politics, a mere survival instinct seeking to preserve his larger Power Grab, but embodying the difference in philosophies.
Republican members of Congress and, particularly, presidential candidates ought take this issue to the voters now, and the eventual nominee should stay the course. Green demagoguery is less powerful now, and Obama’s agenda less defensible, than ever.