'In recent years, many Americans have had cause to wonder whether decisions made at EPA were guided by science and the law, or whether those principles had been trumped by politics," declared Lisa Jackson in San Francisco last week. The Environmental Protection Agency chief can't stop kicking the Bush Administration, but the irony is that the Obama EPA is far more "political" than the Bush team ever was.
How else to explain the coordinated release on Wednesday of the EPA's new rules that make carbon a dangerous pollutant and John Kerry's cap-and-trade bill? Ms. Jackson is issuing a political ultimatum to business, as well as to Midwestern and rural Democrats: Support the Kerry-Obama climate tax agenda—or we'll punish your utilities and consumers without your vote.
The EPA has now formally made an "endangerment finding" on CO2, which will impose the command-and-control regulations of the Clean Air Act across the entire economy. Because this law was never written to apply to carbon, the costs will far exceed those of a straight carbon tax or even cap and trade—though judging by the bills Democrats are stitching together, perhaps not by much. In any case, the point of this reckless "endangerment" is to force industry and politicians wary of raising taxes to concede, lest companies have to endure even worse economic and bureaucratic destruction from the EPA.
Ms. Jackson made a show of saying her new rules would only apply to some 10,000 facilities that emit more than 25,000 tons of carbon dioxide each year, as if that were a concession. These are the businesses—utilities, refineries, heavy manufacturers and so forth—that have the most to lose and are therefore most sensitive to political coercion.
The idea is to get Exelon and other utilities to lobby Congress to pass a cap-and-trade bill that gives them compensating emissions allowances that they can sell to offset the cost of the new regulations. White House green czar Carol Browner was explicit on the coercion point last week, telling a forum hosted by the Atlantic Monthly that the EPA move would "obviously encourage the business community to raise their voices in Congress." In Sicily and parts of New Jersey, they call that an offer you can't refuse.