Staunch foes of carbon regulation remain in the administration, headed by Chairman James L. Connaughton of the Council on Environmental Quality. But the Energy Department's top executive strata have gone green.
Since moving from deputy Treasury secretary to Energy secretary nearly two years ago, business executive and financier Samuel W. Bodman has kept a low profile. In a rare public utterance on global warning Oct. 5, 2005, he said an "increasing level of certainty" about global warming fueled by carbon dioxide "is real" and "a matter we take seriously." In private meetings, he has expressed dissatisfaction with administration policy. Bodman's under secretary, former Senate staffer David K. Garman, has shocked industry lobbyists with his criticism of the president's views.
In the background is a pending Supreme Court decision on what the Clean Air Act requires or permits the Environmental Protection Agency to do about greenhouse gas emissions. Even if the Court says the authority is merely discretionary, McCain or any Democratic president would then crack down on industry if nothing is passed before the 2008 election.
Ultimate salvation from U.S. self-destructive behavior may come from the real world. Most European Union countries, suffering higher energy costs and constraints on growth imposed by the Kyoto pact, cannot meet that treaty's emission level requirements. Furthermore, China is on pace to exceed U.S. emissions by 2010, meaning that unilateral U.S. carbon controls will have little impact on global emissions while driving American jobs to China.
This downside of Speaker Pelosi's green determination ought to resonate in union halls and coalfields of Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia. However, American industrialists, while wringing their hands, are not making their case.