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A Case to Watch

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By Gus Van Horn from Gus Van Horn,cross-posted by MetaBlog

Although the Houston Chronicle touts the case as one that "could shape [national] policy on [global] warming", the real significance of this case lies beyond the fact that it could cause the EPA (which deserves far more fame than it has for banning DDT) to have the power to regulate automobile emissions at the national level.

If the Supreme Court rules the way the environmentalists want, the EPA, suddenly drunk with new power, could finish the job -- started on our east and west coasts -- of starving our power-hungry nation of new sources of electricity.

Back in 2001, Robert Tracinski noted the cause of California's rolling blackouts

For the greens, power outages represent a victory in their 30 years' war against power plants. Over the past decade alone, environmentalists have succeeded in shutting down nuclear reactors at Rancho Seco, San Onofre, and the Trojan plant in Oregon, wiping out more than 2,000 megawatts of power capacity. They have made it impossible to build coal-fired generators, and even some natural gas plants, like Hunters Point in San Francisco, are slated for shutdown. What about clean, renewable hydroelectric power? The newest green crusade is to free the "shackled rivers" and "breach the dams."

The result: There is less generating capacity in California today than in 1989. And thanks to environmental activists, the state has allowed the completion of only one, tiny, 44-megawatt power plant since the crisis began last year.

Fortunately for California, other parts of the nation (like Texas) with regulatory climates friendlier to industry remain able to make up for its shortfall of generating capacity by exporting surplus electricity to the Golden State. But that may change soon:

A spokesman for Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott declined to comment on the case or discuss why Texas decided to side with EPA. Environmental groups in the state say they can guess why the state intervened.

"Among all states, Texas is by far the No. 1 emitter of greenhouse gas pollution," said Colin Rowan, director of regional communication for Environmental Defense.

If Texas were a country, it would rank seventh in the world in greenhouse gas emissions.

"But Texas has no plan to stop it, slow it down or deal with the consequences," Rowan said. "We don't even have an official state inventory of what's at risk. Other states are trying to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, but Texas is poised to build 19 coal-fired power plants that will emit an additional 110 million tons of greenhouse gas pollution a year. That's a pretty good snapshot of the path our leaders have taken us down." [bold added]

And why might we soon face a national shortfall in electricity production? Because the federal government wasn't moving fast enough to force us to sacrifice our standard of living to head off a hightly speculative scenario of future disaster.

Fed up with what they perceived as a glacial federal response to melting ice caps and warming temperatures, environmental groups in 1999 asked the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases emitted by vehicles.

When the EPA declined, the matter went to court, with a dozen states siding with the environmentalists. Nine other states, including Texas, have argued against regulation and sided with the EPA.

The judges start hearing arguments this Wednesday. And they rule next summer on whether the EPA can (and if so, is required to) regulate greenhouse gases.

-- CAV


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