Freedom and the Expansion of the EPA

In April 2007, the Supreme Court concluded that greenhouse gases (GHGs) meet the Clean Air Act’s definition of an air pollutant. Therefore, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been given authority to regulate all GHGs, including carbon dioxide from new motor vehicles. This decision may have profound effects on personal freedom in the United States.

The Clean Air Act did not authorize mandatory regulations to address global climate change, and the EPA felt it was “unwise to do so at that time because a causal link between greenhouse gases and the increase in global surface air temperatures was not unequivocally established.”

However, the EPA has been mandated by the Supreme Court to explain why scientific uncertainty is so profound that it prevents the organization from regulating greenhouse gases, and the EPA is currently taking public comments on the issue to guide their response. The EPA administrator, Stephen L. Johnson, understands the possible freedom-restricting implications of regulating a gas that is a by-product of all industries, businesses, and even breathing.

He states: “…[I]f [the] EPA were to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from motor vehicles under the Clean Air Act, then regulation of smaller stationary sources that also emit GHGs — such as apartment buildings, large homes, schools, and hospitals — could also be triggered. One point is clear: the potential regulation of greenhouse gases under any portion of the Clean Air Act could result in an unprecedented expansion of EPA authority that would have a profound effect on virtually every sector of the economy and touch every household in the land.”

Regulating carbon dioxide could expand government into rationing of energy, restricting travel and controlling most aspects of our daily lives. It would severely restrict personal choice and freedom.


Todd Wynn is the climate change and energy policy analyst at Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free market public policy research center.

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  • Rupert in Springfield

    Given current events financially, one would hope that this issue would maybe be looked at with a little more perspective.

    At this stage of the game, looking to expand regulation of CO2 would appear to be so irrelevant to our current concerns that no one would take it up.

    Greenhouse gasses, global warming and other rarified concerns of the elite now seem somehow quite petty and distant rich mans play things. I would never doubt that those little gears in the minds of those fascinated by the control of others never cease to turn but it would seem to me that at some point someone would turn to them and say:

    “Greenhouse gasses? Your kidding me right?”

    Frankly it has all the tone of a child saying he cant find a particular Lego block when his parents have found out they are about to lose the house.

    • David

      Because you’re having trouble paying your mortgage, does that mean you stop worrying about your retirement? Of course not. You focus on the immediate bills, but you know deep down that you’re only putting things off and that’s only going to make your retirement a little bit worse. And you know it’s coming sooner than you expect. Prudence dictates keeping an eye on it — always.

  • Anonymous

    Self proclaimed Global Warming expert David Appell is now and economist who
    ” I can’t meet the 29.9 percent interest payments on my credit cards”.

    https://olive- 1.live.advance.net/commentary/oregonian/index.ssf?/base/editorial/1222300511303300.xml&coll=7

    • Sunday Opinion
    In a globalized world, I’m just too big to fail
    Thursday, September 25, 2008 The Oregonian
    I n this time of financial uncertainty, I have some more bad news: I may be too big to fail.

    As you know, these are difficult times. I’ve been trading dollars for gasoline and, in the process, I’m afraid that’s been bidding up the price of oil. It’s back over $100 a barrel, and there’s no ceiling in sight. The Chinese have been calling, looking for a gallon here and a gallon there: Couldn’t I cut back just a little?

    I’m sympathetic, but I have to get to the store. You see, I moved out of the big city to lower my rent. I didn’t have enough money to participate in the great housing bubble of the past two years. And when my last landlord renovated, with granite countertops and wood floors, he doubled my rent. I had to hustle out.

    That’s OK. I’m just worried I might take others down with me. Are you listening, Mr. Treasury Secretary?

    I’ve already cut back on chocolate, which surely affects the profits of the local grocery chain, which in turn drags down the chocolate industry. And if they go under because I go under, who knows where the whole confectionary market may land.

    Are you beginning to see why I need relief?

    If my financial difficulties ripple through the economy, there’s no telling where it will end. I’ve also cut back on potato chips and Tuna Helper. Northwest potato farmers, already struggling, don’t need that kind of news. It just puts upward pressure on farm subsidies. Not to mention the whole tractor industry.

    So I’m contacting the Treasury Department. After all, I’d just be a small bailout in a huge economy. I’ll tell them how it is: I’m just too big to fail. I can’t meet the 29.9 percent interest payments on my credit cards, and Visa and Mastercard stand to lose a few billionths of a penny per share, no doubt with rippling repercussions deep into the credit markets, investment funds and even to those white shoe executives with one foot out the door.

    That’s no way to run an economy.

    I didn’t mean for it to come to this. I swear I calculated the risks, set my limits and spent no more than I could afford to lose. You might say I leveraged current expenses against future earnings, just like those guys on Wall Street.

    And isn’t that what it’s all about? I just wanted to participate in the free market, that glorious institution of the hale and hardy, of those who look fear in the face and laugh out loud. “The business of America is business” and all that. Risk is where it’s at, baby. My intentions were completely honest — profit, growth, job creation and prosperity for all.

    Even for you. The Treasury secretary says we’ll come through this even stronger, but he hasn’t returned my calls. George W. Bush hasn’t even flown over in Air Force One to take a look out the window. But his people say not to worry, everything is all right because of that economic stimulus check we received in July (mine went toward a new blender and some socks).

    The Chinese have a saying: “May you live in interesting times.” And it is interesting living without health insurance in the greatest, richest country in the history of civilization. My fault, I guess — those darn pre-existing conditions.

    I was prepared for the risk, of course — but were you?

    Well, we’ll get through this together, let me assure you. I may not be worth what I once was, but give me a million or two and I’ll be right back on my feet, standing up straight with the wrinkles out of my suit and saluting the flag. I mean, what choice do we have really? Everything is interconnected now. If I fall, you fall. That’s what Henry Paulson says, and there’s no doubt that he knows what he’s doing.

    David Appell is a freelance writer in St. Helens.

  • Anonymous

    That’s what you call a “mercy gig.”

    A friend at the paper throws David a bone by letting him write a guest column. David’s friends wouldn’t hire him for a regular gig because of his “problems,” but they’ll throw him a bone so he can keep eating.