The Regulatory President

Why bother getting elected officials’ votes when you can accomplish your purposes by presidential fiat?

An article in yesterday’s Washington Post reveals just what the future will look like under the new president.

The president-elect has said, for example, that he intends to quickly reverse the Bush administration’s decision last December to deny California the authority to regulate carbon dioxide emissions from automobiles…California had sought permission from the Environmental Protection Agency to require that greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles be cut by 30 percent between 2009 and 2016, effectively mandating that cars achieve a fuel economy standard of at least 36 miles per gallon within eight years. Seventeen other states had promised to adopt California’s rules, representing in total 45 percent of the nation’s automobile market.

Since twenty-one percent of new cars are sold in California, this means that the auto makers would need to spend billions of dollars to comply. According to the WSJ, “The auto industry is the nation’s largest manufacturing sector, accounting for almost 4% of U.S. gross domestic product. It employs about 2.5 million people directly or indirectly, and spends tens of billions of dollars a year in research and development.” Yet granting California’s waiver would certainly significantly harm if not sink this industry, since actions to increase the CAFE standard in the past have caused many of the problems Detroit is now having.


Before the election, Obama told others that he favors declaring that carbon dioxide emissions are endangering human welfare, following an EPA task force recommendation last December that Bush and his aides shunned in order to protect the utility and auto industries.

However, a new report out of the Heritage Foundation enumerates just what such an endangerment finding by the EPA would cost:

Annual job losses would exceed 800,000 for several years. An endangerment finding would decrease the U.S. economy by an average of $339 billion every year through 2029. It would transform the EPA into a de facto zoning authority, granting the agency control over thousands of previously local or private decisions, affecting the construction of schools, hospitals, and commercial and residential development. And employment in manufacturing would decline by an additional 22.6 percent or 2,880,000 jobs beyond the baseline losses.