David Harsanyi

We don't need a cap-and-trade deal. What we need is a RICO trial.

Every now and then, apparently, history challenges us with a crisis far too important to be left to the democratic process or the vagaries of public opinion. In these instances, the enlightened, the powerful, the moral must act swiftly.

So sayeth the Obama administration this week, empowering the Environmental Protection Agency to police greenhouse gases as a danger to public health and welfare, thus giving the agency discretion to regulate ... well, anything it pleases -- or, I should say, whatever is left.

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"These long-overdue findings cement 2009's place in history as the year when the United States government began addressing the challenge of greenhouse-gas pollution and seizing the opportunity of clean-energy reform," explained EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson. "This continues our work towards clean energy reform that will cut GHGs and reduce the dependence on foreign oil that threatens our national security and our economy."

Jackson, of course, is an administrator, not a policymaker. She is charged neither with meditating on our energy cravings nor with solving our national security dilemmas. She isn't charged with tackling the nation's economic problems, either. In fact, any more assistance from D.C. on that front and we all will be peddling frozen apples in the bruising cold.

What Jackson has done, though, is inadvertently offer the strongest case against the EPA's dubious decision on carbon dioxide. If the EPA's actions really converge on as many spheres of public life as Jackson asserts, then a single crusading regulatory agency is in no position -- and should have no authority -- to regulate all of them.

No worries, we're told. The EPA wouldn't do it. It's a bluff. It has other things in mind. In this case, it is all about hastening much-needed "action" on climate change by employing a technique universally known as blackmail.

The timing of the EPA announcement gives President Barack Obama the ammunition he needs to make a climate deal in Copenhagen, where leaders from around the world have gathered for one last chance to save mankind -- until they all fly to by-then temperate Mexico next year for the last last chance to save mankind.

Obama, as we know, has no authority to enter into a binding international treaty (isn't the Constitution irritating?), as any treaty must be ratified by the Senate -- a Senate that won't pass a cap-and-trade scheme any time soon if we're lucky.

David Harsanyi

David Harsanyi is a senior editor at The Federalist and the author of "The People Have Spoken (and They Are Wrong): The Case Against Democracy." Follow him on Twitter @davidharsanyi.