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DRIESSEN: The coming environmental battlegrounds

Green agenda threatens economic future

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When American voters re-elected President Obama, they also returned his Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Interior and Energy departments and wide-ranging agenda for "fundamentally transforming" our nation.

This will mean cementing Obamacare, Dodd-Frank, higher taxes and rampant spending. It also will bring more disputes over energy and environmental regulations, the vanguard of Mr. Obama's determined campaign to eliminate hydrocarbons that power our economy and to embrace more "green" energy. The conflict will be fought primarily on six battlegrounds:

Carbon taxes: Hurricane Sandy presented a fresh pretext for regulating and taxing hydrocarbons. No respectable climatologist or meteorologist believes atmospheric carbon dioxide conjured up the destructive storm, but climate alarmism always has been about political science, not real science.

Democratic Rep. Jim McDermott's Managed Carbon Price Act imputes a cost for CO2 emissions and compels energy producers and users to buy carbon permits. The president is considering a direct carbon tax that he says will raise billions of dollars annually and reduce deficits. Both ought to be dead on arrival in the House. Another pointless round of United Nations-sponsored climate treaty discussions will take place soon in Doha, Qatar.

The real threat is EPA regulations limiting CO2 from power plants and other sources by executive fiat.

With China, India and other developing countries massively increasing their "greenhouse gas" emissions, none of these proposals would reduce atmospheric CO2 levels. They would, however, put government in charge of our entire economy, sharply increase energy prices for every business and household, kill millions of jobs, ensure that new tax revenues never materialize, and hurt poor families most.

War on hydrocarbons: America has abundant hydrocarbons, onshore and offshore, including centuries' worth of natural gas for heating, petrochemicals, electricity generation and vehicles. With little to hold their pre-election anti-energy instincts in check, the White House, EPA and Interior may still oppose the Keystone XL pipeline, further delay onshore and offshore drilling, and unleash a blitzkrieg of new rules on hydraulic fracturing and coal-fired power plants.

That would stifle job creation, revenue generation and economic growth while leaving the nation dependent on despotic regimes and costly renewable-energy schemes.

Renewable-energy preferences: Antipathy toward oil, gas and coal is matched by the pincer move of mandates, fuel standards and subsidies for wind, solar and biofuel power. The first pitched battle will decide whether the production tax credit for wind-based electricity will be extended again.

Other battles will be fought over corn for food versus cars; growing opposition to bird-killing industrial wind facilities and habitat-smothering solar projects; the impact of pricey renewable energy on families, hospitals, factories, businesses and jobs; and corrupt corporate cronyism among politicians and the heavily subsidized campaign contributors they keep in business.

Unequal treatment under law: Mandates and subsidies are not enough to keep industrial wind facilities solvent. They also require exemptions from laws governing endangered species, migratory birds, environmental reviews and other issues.

Even the most speculative environmental impacts can scuttle oil, gas, coal and uranium proposals -- and oil companies are routinely assessed major fines if ducks die after landing in uncovered waste pits. However, wind operators incur no penalties for killing thousands of eagles, hawks, whooping cranes, bats and other rare and vital flying creatures every year. Citizens, companies, courts and legislators are expressing growing intolerance for separate regulatory regimes and unequal treatment under law.

Agenda science: Sound risk assessment and honest cost-benefit analyses have been replaced by conjecture, exaggeration and agenda-driven politicized science at too many federal agencies. EPA is the worst offender, but the Interior, Energy and even Defense departments also are culprits.

Risks from climate change, mercury, soot and industrial chemicals are inflated routinely, as are the purported benefits of exorbitantly expensive regulations. Meanwhile, the impact of rules on energy prices, business profits and competitiveness, jobs and, thus, overall human health and welfare are ignored.

With total federal regulatory compliance costs now estimated at $1.75 trillion and 8.8 billion hours annually, this issue could become a legislative and regulatory Battle of Kursk.

Subsidized pressure and propaganda: Billions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies continue to flow each year to bureaucratic zealots, environmentalist pressure groups, universities and other organizations. These dollars fund junk science, strained justifications for indefensible rules, more pressure to regulate for increasingly diminished returns, and outright propaganda.

Federal and state legislators need to hold investigative hearings, demand accountability, cut bloated agency budgets that enable such expenditures, and question why tax-exempt activist groups should receive taxpayer money funneled through government agencies.

America can continue paying billions in subsidies annually to prop up "green" technologies and agenda-driven science, or we can generate tens of billions a year in royalties and taxes, create millions of jobs and rejuvenate our economy through hydrocarbons, nuclear power and common-sense regulations.

Will President Obama, Democrats and executive branch agencies be receptive to bipartisan approaches -- to institutionalizing all-of-the-above energy decisions that make scientific, economic, environmental and technological sense? Or will they be even more entrenched, knowing the White House can act via executive decree if Congress does nothing?

The answer will determine whether the United States becomes an economic powerhouse once again or an enormous Greece. Blessed with more oil, gas and coal than almost any other nation on earth, we must not refuse to develop these resources.

Paul Driessen is senior policy adviser for the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow and author of "Eco-Imperialism: Green Power, Black Death" (Merril Press, 2012).

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