Given Senator Scott Brown’s [R-Mass] success in supporting conservative solutions while representing one of the most historically liberal states in the nation, it is no surprise that he has become the target of disingenuous attacks by the Boston Globe in their recent editorial, “For Brown, A Sad Turnaround on Environmental Issues.” In it, the paper laments Brown’s supposed flip flop because of his vote for the McConnell Amendment (S.AMDT.183) to the SBIR/STTR Reauthorization Act of 2011 (S.493), prohibiting the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from singlehandedly regulating greenhouse gasses. Although the amendment ultimately failed, the editorial article misses many key points regarding this important issue.
The legislation Senator Brown voted for has nothing to do with scientific questions about global warming. The Energy Tax Prevention Act was written to rein in federal overreach; it was about who will dictate this country’s energy policy—unelected bureaucrats or the United States Congress. Even with a strong Democratic majority in the 111thSenate, the chamber outright rejected cap-and-trade. Unable to pass this legislation through Congress, Democrats pivoted, enlisting the EPA to do their dirty work.
Standing on legally precarious grounds, the EPA co-opted the archaic Clean Air Act to achieve its ends. As Marlo Lewis points out, neither the terms “greenhouse gas” nor “greenhouse effect” appear in the Clean Air Act. When the act was amended in 1990, adding, among other things, one use of the word “carbon dioxide,” that particular section ended by stating that, “‘Nothing in this subsection shall be construed to authorize the imposition on any person of air pollution control requirements.’” So no, Boston Globe, this amendment was not intended to “strip the Environmental Protection Agency of the authority to regulate any greenhouse gases” Rather, it was correctly asserting that no such authority existed in the first place.
In fact, Scott Brown is doing exactly what he promised to do, spur economic growth and roll back federal overreach. As ATR has previously reported, EPA’s newfound understanding of the Clean Air Act would take a devastating toll in this regard. Estimates by the Manufacturers Alliance found that these rules would reduce GDP by 5.4 percent and kill 7.3 million jobs as soon as 2020. Supporting these regulations would be the real “sad turnaround.”
Perhaps most entertaining is the Globe’s implicit acknowledgement of the current unfeasibility of so many “alternative energy” projects. The editorial notes that passage of the amendment would have destroyed the Northeast’s budding “clean energy” sector. Apparently, these projects cannot succeed without the EPA eliminating all competition unless proven, reliable energy sources are suffocated by permitting restrictions and arbitrary regulations. New energy technology will certainly play a part in America’s technological future, but we will never develop truly workable cleaner energy sources if the main tactic of environmentalists is to use government power to destroy competition. Henry Ford never asked the government to slaughter horses; Alexander Graham Bell never petitioned to shut down the Postal Service.
Finally, according to the Globe, not supporting a potential 5.4 percent GDP reduction and the loss of 7.3 million jobs would actually put the U.S. at a comparative disadvantage with Asian and European countries. On the contrary, competing with emerging economic powerhouses like China will require robust economic expansion, brought about by pro-growth policies supported by courageous Senators like Scott Brown.