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The climate and the economic climate

January 3, 2011 - Mike Maneval
In the wake of the death of cap and trade, the plan to limit carbon emissions and allow polluters to sell and trade shortfalls beneath the threshold for legal output to enterprises which surpass the limits, the Environmental Protection Agency is proposing executive actions to be taken independent of the legislature's debate.

The efforts likely would include tougher fuel-efficiency standards on cars and trucks, and new limitations on statuary sources of carbon, such as power plants and refineries. Forty percent of carbon emissions stem from power plants and refineries, according to The Charleston Daily Mail, which found Democrats like U.S. Senators Jay Rockefeller and Joe Manchin, both of West Virginia, joining with Republican congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito, also of West Virginia, to oppose the EPA's initiative.

While much of the coal-rich West Virginia delegation's arguments stem from populism - a notion elected lawmakers need to set energy and environmental policy rather than enforcement agencies, the West Virginians also were candid about their fears the uncertainty and additional expenditures could be devastating for the paychecks and pocketbooks of Mountain State voters. And with unemployment still closer to 10 percent than 9 percent, such fears are understandable. And while tougher fuel efficiency standards are a solid proposal that, at the very least, would reduce the strain of demand and its lifting of gasoline prices, the proposal for power plants and refineries, much like the original cap and trade proposal itself, is worrisome.

Will other nations, particularly China and India, comply with a framework to add expenditures to their power plant and refinery operations, or will the U.S. be yielding firmer ground on which to build an economic recovery to competing economies? And if so, are Americans certain - not that the climate is changing more rapidly and erratically than past trends, and not that human activity contributes to the change, but that we've correctly identified the activity which predominantly contributes to shifts in climate trends to the exclusion of other factors and variables, human-initiated and otherwise? Because only with that certainty can any American, in good conscience, by asked to sacrifice to a more expensive standard of living.

The fuel efficiency standards and more research in the field of climatology are an alternate compromise to carbon limits that are simply too risky in today's economic climate.


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