It's true that the goals of Bush's Clear Skies legislation are approximately the same as existing targets of the Clean Air Act, so some moderates worry that if the bill passed, Bush would get credit as an environmentalist for essentially maintaining the status quo. The rub is that existing Clean Air Act power-plant regulations and "state implementation plans," which govern overall airshed quality, have led to runaway litigation, with the typical Clean Air Act rule taking ten years of legal proceedings to finalize, according to a study by Steve Hayward of the American Enterprise Institute.We've made a lot of progress in this country on the environment (if legislation is your bag, man) and the biggest steps forward have come under GOP leadership: Nixon and NEPA and the Clean Air/Clean Water Acts; Bush Sr. and Clean Air amendments, and now Bush Jr. and a market-friendly cap-and-trade program, which the serious think tanks have been pushing for ages as the best solution. What did Jimmy Carter do besides put on a sweater? What did Clinton do except push through unsustainable policies as he was leaving (policies he knew Bush would have to rescind)?
Bush's Clear Skies bill would scrap the litigation-based system and substitute the "cap and trade" approach that has been spectacularly successful at reducing acid rain. Caps under the Bush bill are mandatory, and the bill regulates power-plant mercury emissions for the first time, imposing a mandatory two-thirds reduction; by using a cap-and-trade approach, Bush's approach would achieve Clean Air Act goals at lower cost and without lawsuit uncertainty. To top it off, if Clear Skies were enacted, it would bind the power plants governed by the "new source rule" controversy, mooting that whole issue and ending the dispute.
But then, ending disputes is not what Washington is about, is it?
Face it: The greens of convenience, including most Democratic politicians, stand to see more benefit from the issue than the solution. As for the hard-core, hemp-brained, credit-card-watermelon ecowarriors, no measure is drastic enough. That, too, is a strategic choice, since if the government ever implemented their total-ludditism eco-policy, they'd all have to go find another issue to wet the bed about. In the meantime, they tie the hands of moderate, incrementalist environmentalists by pushing the anti-civilization rap. Really, if you want anything done about the environment (and, frankly, I'm not sure I do, if it's done by the same government that runs Amtrak) vote for Bush.