FRANKO & BURNETT: Enron values at EPA

Environmental agency has some explaining to do

Commentary by H. Sterling Burnett

Source: Washington Times

Our nation's capital has always been a place of paradoxical twists. From canings on the Senate floor in the 1800s to President Reagan and Speaker Thomas P. "Tip" O'Neill sharing drinks at the end of the day, it takes a lot for Washington to be surprised. Even so, we find ourselves surprised at events on Capitol Hill likely to take place over the coming weeks.

We start at the Supreme Court, where on March 1, Jeffrey Skilling's attorneys presented their oral arguments appealing his conviction for the Enron debacle. Relatively soon - no later than May 21 - and a stone's throw away, the Senate will vote to prevent a fraud that makes Skilling look like an altar boy.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, Alaska Republican, has introduced a bipartisan bill, and is guaranteed a vote, that would stop the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from moving forward on new rules aimed at regulating greenhouse-gas emissions by overturning its finding that global warming poses a clear and present danger to public health and welfare. On Wednesday, the governors of 18 states and two territories joined 98 industry groups in sending letters in support of the senator's resolution.

While Skilling's fraud has been proved in court, the EPA's fraud is only now being exposed to the light of day - and based on opinion polls, it is being found guilty in the court of public opinion.

The fraud behind the EPA's regulations is threefold: the science, the economics and the results.

Concerning the science, with the hacked/leaked e-mails of Climategate becoming public, we know that key scientists behind the 2007 report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) - the bible of the climate-industrial complex - used tricks to cover up data that showed an unexpected decline in temperature and tried to suppress research that cast doubt on the notion that humans are responsible for catastrophic warming. And once the press in the United Kingdom started investigating the IPCC's predictions in detail, it found that one claim after another was based on faulty, non-peer-reviewed literature.

For instance, the IPCC reported that Himalayan glaciers would melt in a few decades because of global climate change, but the best research indicated that was incorrect. Other alarmist claims made by IPCC that have been shown either to lack supporting evidence or simply to be wrong include the pace and impact of the loss of the Amazonian rain forests, the effects of climate upon rainfall and food production in Africa, and even something so straightforward as the proportion of Holland that sits below sea level. Despite all these flaws and others, the EPA relied on the IPCC to find that CO2 emissions pose a threat sufficient to take command of the U.S. economy.

The EPA claims that its regulations won't increase costs or otherwise harm the economy. This is laughable. The regulations can't work if the costs of fossil fuels don't increase and force the public to shift to less reliable, more expensive alternative fuels. An independent analysis from Harvard University found that to reach President Obama's CO2 target, gas prices would have to more than double - to $7 a gallon. When the Treasury Department looked at Congress' preferred alternative to EPA regulations, "cap-and-trade," it found that the average household would spend an extra $1,761 per year. And that is the less-expensive alternative to the EPA's top-down regulations.

Worst of all, the economic downturn brought on by the EPA's regulations will do nothing to reduce CO2 emissions because fast-growing economic competitors such as China and India, not hampered by U.S. energy restrictions, will continue to generate huge growth in their emissions. Indeed, China alone already emits more CO2 than the U.S. and Canada combined. And research by physicist Richard A. Muller at Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory shows that every 10 percent reduction in emissions in the United States is negated by one year's growth in China's emissions.

Another ironic link between Skilling and the EPA's greenhouse gas regulations: The Obama administration is using the threat of EPA regulations to play hardball with Congress. The administration's threat is, "Pass cap-and-trade, or we'll do even worse things to the economy through EPA regulations." The funny thing is, Skilling and his former cronies at Enron Corp. were early promoters of the cap-and-trade scheme to fight warming. If this extortion works, Congress essentially will be adopting an idea that the disgraced and dismantled Enron developed. As with so many companies now supporting cap-and-trade, Enron saw the scheme as a way to get a government-backed leg up on its competition.

Convicted book-cooker Skilling is serving jail time for his misdeeds. What should the punishment be for those trying to bilk Americans based on science that we know to be flawed and an economic scheme that we know to be fraudulent in operation and results?

James Franko is a legislative assistant and H. Sterling Burnett is a senior fellow with the National Center for Policy Analysis.