Nine members of Congress, led by Rep. Marsha Blackburn, have introduced a malicious little bill – curiously numbered H.R. 6666 – to block the regulation of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act, and any other action under that law to curb climate change. The bill promptly drew support from the far-sighted folks at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
The two-page bill would accomplish what the Bush administration could not. On White House orders, the Bush EPA declared that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases could not be limited under the Clean Air Act. But the Supreme Court, in the landmark 2007 case of Massachusetts v. EPA, delivered the White House a sharp rebuke by holding that these heat-trapping chemicals are indeed “air pollutants.” The Court ordered the EPA administrator to determine, based on the science alone, whether they endanger public health or welfare, and if so, to issue emission-curbing standards under the Clean Air Act.
It’s a virtual certainty that the present EPA head, Stephen Johnson, will do no such thing. On White House orders, he’s stonewalling until the Bush administration runs out its term next January. But die-hard opponents of addressing global warming are worried about what comes next, since both presidential candidates are pledged to act on global warming.
The bill has no chance of passage, but the Chamber’s support for it speaks volumes. Coincidentally, I ran across this passage today in my summer reading: Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr.’s classic portrait of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal, The Age of Roosevelt. Schlesinger records in the third volume, The Politics of Upheaval (Houghton Mifflin, 1960, p. 273), a letter that President Roosevelt wrote to Thomas J. Watson, head of IBM:
It makes me very sad to think that because of the action of a few Associations the county as a whole has it pretty well in mind that businessmen are “agin” every improvement and have been consistently for more than a generation. An actual inspection of the record will show, for example, that our own Chamber of Commerce in New York has a one hundred per cent record of opposition to things like factory inspection, excessive hours, elimination of child labor, old age pensions, unemployment insurance – year after year the same old story. They may have been right in opposing some of the measures but certainly not the great majority of them. Furthermore, in all this time, during my own experience of twenty-five years in public life, the same Chamber has never yet initiated and pressed one single item of social betterment.
Lots of businesses – both large and small – have accepted the need to solve global warming. They are working with us to find solutions – whether by implementing existing laws or enacting a new one. Roosevelt’s pessimistic assessment aside, it’s not too late for the Chamber to drop little charades like this one and start helping.