If you studied logic in high school, you probably learned about a style of argument called “reductio ad absurdum.”
Reduction arguments are persuasive because they simply accept all the premises of the opposing side, then draw absurd conclusions, demonstrating that the premises themselves must be flawed.
When you pose such arguments to a reasonable person, you can often persuade him to rethink his position. Unfortunately, the Environmental Protection Agency is anything but reasonable.
The EPA wants to regulate carbon under the Clean Air Act, something the Supreme Court ruled it could do in an ill-advised and narrow 2007 decision. The problem is that the Clean Air Act became law decades before our current state of paranoia over the effects of man-made global warming. The law was never meant to regulate carbon, and this is abundantly obvious from the language of the law itself.
The Clean Air Act’s statutory language applies to entities that emit more than 100 tons of a “pollutant” each year. When applied to ozone or smog, this standard makes sense because it covers major polluters but leaves your grocery store, your church, your nearest hospital and your office building alone. But when applied to carbon, it ensnares nearly 600,000 medium-to-large facilities nationwide. This would create massive compliance burdens and a likely rebellion among business owners.
In a recent court filing, the EPA estimated that it would need $21 billion and 230,000 new bureaucrats — the equivalent of the entire population of Madison, Wis. — to regulate carbon under the Clean Air Act as currently written. We take this as an obvious absurd conclusion — a sign that the agency should go back to the drawing board. The EPA is instead trying to promulgate looser rules for carbon that have no basis in law. In other words, the EPA is actually rewriting a law that Congress already passed, and doing so without Congress having anything to say about it.
This summer, discussing immigration, President Barack Obama said, “The idea of doing things on my own is very tempting.” His Department of Homeland Security soon after announced a policy of suspending deportation proceedings for many illegal immigrants caught violating the law. His Education Department recently offered waivers from the No Child Left Behind law to states that would substitute the standards set by that law (which passed Congress) with standards created by the Obama White House (which did not pass Congress).
So it’s not surprising that Obama’s former budget director, Peter Orszag, now argues for more bureaucratic control of federal policies and less input from the elected Congress. If the Obama administration keeps unilaterally rewriting so many of the statutes on the books, why even have a Congress at all?