THE BLOG
07/05/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

White House Bounces EPA Reality Check

Last December, the White House simply refused to open an e-mail from the Environmental Protection Agency because it contained the unwelcome conclusion that greenhouse gas emissions pose a threat to public health and therefore need to be regulated. The EPA finding was a response "to a 2007 Supreme Court ruling that required it to determine whether greenhouse gases represent a danger to health or the environment," the New York Times reported on Wednesday.

Faced with the proverbial inconvenient truth, the White House not only refused to open the e-mail, they ordered Jason Burnett, the EPA official who sent the document, to "recall it," according to the Washington Post.

Burnett, who has, not coincidentally, since resigned, told the Post:

"In early December, I sent an e-mail with the formal finding that action must be taken to address the risk of climate change...The White House made it clear they did not want to address the ramifications of that finding and have decided to leave the challenge to the next administration. Some [at the White House] thought that EPA had mistakenly concluded that climate change endangers the public. It was no mistake."

I'd accuse the administration of foot-dragging, but that implies some kind of forward movement, however glacial (now, there's a word that's headed for extinction, thanks to climate change.) The dinosaurs who've been dictating our energy policy in this country are as encased in asphalt as the fossils at the La Brea Tarpits, and just as unlikely to budge.

Jon Stewart highlighted this new low point from the Petro-Pusher-In-Chief on Wednesday's Daily Show with a segment called "Be Patient -- This Gets Amazing:"

"The White House is treating America's environmental policy like a spam boner pill ad... ...Here's the best part of the whole story -- not opening the e-mail worked. Rather than walk the hard copy over to the government, the EPA rewrote the policy to Bush's liking..."

The new version of the EPA ruling, according to the Times, "offers no conclusion. Instead, the document reviews the legal and economic issues presented by declaring greenhouse gases a pollutant."

Well, sure, nobody likes to get bad news. But what you have to understand about this bizarre episode is that the e-mail actually contained some good news that the Bush Administration desperately wants to squelch -- specifically, the finding "that tough regulation of motor vehicle emissions could produce $500 billion to $2 trillion in economic benefits over the next 32 years," as the Times noted. Why? Because the Carbon Cartel can't afford to sanction anything that might wean us off our dependency on Big Oil.

Of course, the Big Three fought higher fuel efficiency standards, too, on the grounds that it would be bad for business. Now that GM's stock has plunged to a 53-year low, you've gotta wonder how much worse could business be? Why didn't the U.S. auto industry anticipate the higher gas prices that have made American cars a bad buy for cash-strapped consumers?

Maybe they were referring to the same deliriously rosy projections that the Transportation Department relied on when it made its own fuel-economy proposals, which, as the Times reported, were "based on the assumption that gasoline would range from $2.26 per gallon in 2016 to $2.51 per gallon in 2030..."

Could these guys bury their heads any deeper in the tar sands? The price of oil may rise and fall, but the era of cheap oil is GONE FOREVER, as Paul Krugman points out in his Friday column, and nothing's gonna bring it back.

The stock market tanked Thursday in the wake of predictions that the cost of oil could rise to $150-$170 a barrel, and a gallon of gas could cost $7 by the year 2010. As Krugman notes, a lot of folks are clinging to the notion that higher gas prices are a temporary phenomenon fueled by speculation. Others insist that the solution lies in offshore drilling.

But Ted Koppel put it all in perspective on the Daily Show Thursday night, where he dropped by to plug his upcoming four-part series on China for the Discovery Channel, The People's Republic of Capitalism. As he told Jon Stewart:

"...look at the gasoline prices in this country, for example -- $4.50 a gallon. The Chinese are now putting new cars on the road at the rate of about $25,000 a day, 9 million new cars a year. In another ten years, they'll have as many cars as we do. You see a potential for competition and conflict, here?"

Oil is just another raw material like copper or lumber, whose prices have also jumped as more folks in China and India ascend to the ranks of the newly minted middle class. Increased demand for oil is simply going to outstrip the supply, regardless of whether we drill offshore or in Alaska.

If America truly is, as Sean Hannity is fond of saying, "the greatest, best country God has ever given man on the face of the earth," we can hardly blame China for wanting to live like us. Unfortunately, in order for us to maintain the lifestyle to which we've become accustomed, Americans -- who make up just four percent of the planet's population -- use about 25% of the world's resources. For the greatest, best country God has ever given man on the face of the earth, we sure suck at math.

Oh well, we can always borrow a page from the White House playbook for how to handle reality when it comes knocking: don't open the door. Just pretend you're not home. Gotta send those facts with their liberal bias packing.