Knowing that the chances of getting cap-and-trade legislation through a Republican-controlled House and a Senate with a larger, more conservative Republican minority will be almost impossible, Obama suggested the backdoor route through the EPA may be a way to accomplish the goal without requiring new legislation.
"The EPA is under a court order that says greenhouse gases are a pollutant that fall under their jurisdiction," Obama said. "And I think one of the things that's very important for me is not to have us ignore the science, but rather to find ways that we can solve these problems that don't hurt the economy, that encourage the development of clean energy in this country, that, in fact, may give us opportunities to create entire new industries and create jobs that - and that put us in a competitive posture around the world."
In other words, Obama intends to pursue the ideological cause of reducing carbon emissions despite growing doubt in the international scientific community about the validity of anthropogenic climate warming theories.
"Cap-and-trade was just one way of skinning the cat; it was not the only way," Obama said at Wednesday's press conference. "And I'm going to be looking for other means to address this problem."
On June 26, 2009, in a 219 to 212 vote, House passed a cap-and-trade bill that was championed by Henry Waxman, D-Calif., and Edward Markey, D-Mass. The Senate did not take up floor consideration of a cap-and-trade measure.
Now, Obama is in for a fight if he intends to proceed with implementing carbon taxes through the back door of EPA regulations.
In an April 2009 appearance on ABC's "This Week," then hosted by George Stephanopoulos, Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, said: "George, the idea that carbon dioxide is a carcinogen that is harmful to our environment is almost comical. Every time we exhale, we exhale carbon dioxide."
EPA declares carbon dioxide a harmful chemical
In December 2009, the Environmental Protection Agency acting under the authority of the Clean Air Act took steps to control carbon emissions blamed for global warning from power plants, factories and refineries, without waiting for Congress to act on cap and trade.
The EPA ruled that greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide endanger human health under the Clean Air Act, despite the fact human beings exhale carbon dioxide that trees and other plants absorb.
According to the EPA website, on Dec. 7, 2009, the EPA administrator signed two distinct findings regarding greenhouse gases under section 202(a) of the Clean Air Act:
* Endangerment Finding: The Administrator finds that the current and projected of six key well-mixed green house gases - including carbon dioxide - in the atmosphere threaten the public health and welfare of future generations;
* Cause or Contribute Finding: The Administrator finds that the combined emissions of these well-mixed greenhouse gases from new motor vehicles and new motor vehicle engines contribute to the greenhouse gas pollution that threatens public health and welfare.
All this derives from the Supreme Court ruling in Massachusetts v. EPA, 549 U.S. 497 (2007) that Section 202(a)(1) of the Clean Air Act allows the EPA to regulate the emission of carbon dioxide as an air pollutant.
The EPA decision opened the door for the Obama administration to impose restrictions on the use of carbon-based fuels in the United States, even if Congress never passes the administration's proposed cap-and-trade legislation.
Specifically, the EPA would require industrial plants that emit 25,000 tons of greenhouses gases a year or more to install technology to improve energy efficiency whenever a facility is changed or built.
The EPA has also delayed 79 coal-mining permits in four states, arguing the planned coal mining operations would cause significant damage to water quality and the environment under the specifications of the Clean Water Act.
States to oppose EPA in court
Texas, a leading carbon-dioxide emitter because of its heavy concentration of oil refining and other industries would suffer a major economic impact if the EPA mandatory regulations on carbon dioxide are allowed to take effect, Reuters reported.
The New York Times reported that John Engler, the former Republican governor of Michigan and current president of the National Association of Manufacturers, said last week that the new Congress should assert stronger control over the EPA, which he maintained "is getting way outside its authority in trying to regulate that which cannot pass in the legislative process."
Should Obama succeed, EPA-imposed taxes on carbon-dioxide emissions would most certainly be a setback to a U.S. economy struggling to recover.