It began, as these things so often do, with a single inflammatory line on the front page of The Wall Street Journal: "The Obama administration is expected as early as Monday to formally declare carbon dioxide a dangerous pollutant."
The Journal eventually conceded that Obama does not really intend to tax every breath you take (apologies to Sting). Working through the Environmental Protection Agency and the Clean Air Act, the administration really only wants to regulate annual emitters of 25,000 tons or more of CO2. Regardless, the damage had been done -- and industry PR flacks were off to the races!
The American Petroleum Institute, populated by refiners such as Valero
On the other side of the ocean, steel industry association Eurofer worries that carbon regulation in Europe, combined with subsidies for "green" efforts in the developing world, could translate into subsidizing the competition for steel companies like Eurofer member ArcelorMittal
Like a dog with a new bone, Fool writers and editors also quickly rose to the bait, and began to debate. Let's listen in:
Rich Duprey: I guess if the EPA was only "asking" so-called polluters to pollute less, it might not be as egregious. But it's not asking. It's forcing businesses to comply with onerous regulations that will place them at a competitive disadvantage to companies elsewhere in the world. It's also only a first step to broad regulations that will impact virtually all U.S. businesses, not to mention individuals, and may in fact be based upon faulty science. So it seems pretty unreasonable to me all the way around.
Brian Richards: Asking large polluters to pollute less? Seems reasonable to me, actually. The bigger issue is that the EPA is circumventing the legislative process, which is shady.
Brian Bauer: The administration believes the EPA already has authority under existing law to regulate carbon emissions and environmental health hazards, and if so, it isn't circumventing the legislative process.
Tom Cadorette: In 2007, the Supreme Court tacitly acknowledged that the EPA could regulate greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act, by ruling that CO2 and other greenhouse gases were pollutants. The Court then required the EPA to determine whether they were pollutants that actually posed a danger to public health and welfare before they could regulate them. No circumvention here.
David Williamson: According to a BBC World Service / Globe Scan poll that came out this week, the majority of Americans and the world want this issue tackled. In the U.S., 74% of Americans find climate change either a very serious or somewhat serious issue ... Even more, a full 52% of Americans support government investment to address climate change even if it hurts our economy.
Alex Dumortier: Unfortunately, global warming has become a religious issue. I don't say the anthropogenic global warming hypothesis is false -- but many of its proponents treat the hypothesis -- and more importantly, the magnitude of its impact -- as received truth. As far as polls of the American people go (or any other people, for that matter), they tell us nothing about what we should or shouldn't do about global warming, since virtually all of the people that are polled are completely ignorant regarding anything that relates to global warming.
Alex Dumortier's not alone in that opinion. The Fool recently played host to SuperFreakonomics co-author Stephen Dubner, who suggests that we could basically cancel out the effects of global warming by using hoses and helium balloons (Balloon Boy not included), floating them up into the atmosphere, and piping sulfur dioxide into the stratosphere -- all at a cost of less than $140 million.
So good news/bad news: The new regulation's not quite as draconian as the Journal made it sound initially -- but that doesn't necessarily mean it's good policy. You've heard what Fools have to say. Now it's your turn to take over the debate. Scroll down, and let us know what you think.