New rules proposed by the Obama administration are causing quite a bit of controversy. The rules, handed down by the EPA, will require existing coal-fired power plants to cut their emissions by 30 percent over the next 15 years, should the rules go into effect.
The move is being hailed by many on the left as a bold move in the fight to decrease US greenhouse gas emissions and ballyhooed by the right for its possible impact on energy prices and jobs in the energy sector.
Democrat politicians in red energy-producing states like West Virginia, Louisiana are using the opportunity to essentially run against Obama and make themselves more appealing to the more centric Dems in their states. Reportedly, the Obama administration has even given some vulnerable Dems permission to posture themselves against him during this election cycle.
All this political posturing is particularly ironic, given the overall impact of American energy production as a proportion of global emissions is only around 5.5%. Reducing that by 30% brings us down to around 3.9%, but even that measly number will shrink in the coming decades as India and China continue to increase emissions. Translation: the new rules will do almost nothing, while penalizing the American middle class.
This coupled with the fact that the biggest polluter in the US is not energy production, but the Department of Defense, which is not subject to EPA rules, lays bare exactly how political this effort really is.
Both the political posturing and the realization of a major policy goal through non-republican (little r) means has gotten me thinking: has the political class given up on the idea of a limited executive all together?
Obama has been trying for the entire five years of his presidency to legislatively implement a similar policy and has failed in spectacular fashion; the political will just isn’t there. So, picking up his infamous ‘pen and phone’ Obama is taking executive action to accomplish his goals.
While the executive order has been abused by pretty much every modern president, President Obama’s brash contempt of Congress seems to stand above the rest. And he appears to have the majority of the media behind him. I can’t even begin to imagine the outrage if a Republican (big R this time) president had used their pen and phone to implement a policy that had the potential to eradicate 800,000 middle class jobs.
I want to stay far away from arguments about whether democracies, or in our case democratically-elected constitutional republics, are moral, but I think this instance raises the question: Is an executive taking non-democratic action to achieve what he or she perceives as a moral action any more or less moral than a democracy failing to act?
There is no easy answer, particularly in this most contentious of cases. We are not just talking about global warming here, we’re talking about a policy that will force a radical change in the way Americans live their everyday lives. When the price of electricity increases (which it will), the price of almost everything increases right along with it. There is a reason that a policy with such a wide-reaching impact will, and should, take significant time to be implemented.
If 50%+1 of the population believes we should cut carbon emissions, but 50%-1 of Americans couldn’t afford the increase and would instead be put into economic hardship, does that majority make it the right thing to do, despite the minority’s peril?
The possible trampling of the minority is one of the many dangers some of the founding fathers foresaw, and one of the reasons they created the ‘checks and balances’ present in the Constitution. What kind of precedent is it setting that Obama is willfully ignoring the political process in pursuit of his perceived good?