Photo Credit: Rockaway Youth on Banner by user Light Brigading


With this past Halloween, we witnessed the Wall Street Journal jump out from behind a hedge fund and try to scare the business community right out of its Brooks Brothers boxers. Like most haunted houses and scary apparitions at this time of year however, WSJ's was as fake as a Sarah Palin mask on your next-door neighbor's pit bull. On October 20th 2008, the WSJ ran an editorial entitled "The coming offer you won't be able to refuse." It blasted an Obama spokesperson for suggesting that the USEPA might set standards for reducing greenhouse gases without waiting for further authority from Congress. The WSJ argued that the world as we know it would end, stating among other hair-on-fire nonsense that "coal-fired power and other fossil fuels would be ruled out of existence" by such a move. Well, let's strip off the "gotcha" costume for a moment and examine the facts:

• The WSJ says any action by the nation's primary environmental regulatory body would be "a faulty interpretation of the Clean Air Act." In truth, the Supreme Court ruled last year that greenhouse gases are pollutants as defined by the Clean Air Act. That's right, the nation's highest court—the one that awarded the White House to George W. Bush and that is currently stacked with Republican appointees—has already concluded that the USEPA has an obligation under federal law to address greenhouse gas pollution. If it's a "faulty interpretation", then apparently the WSJ knows more about the law than the Supreme Court.

• The WSJ complains that "a blueprint released in July" by USEPA sets forth the manner in which greenhouse gases would be regulated and complains that it would "monitor and regulate the carbon emissions of...everything with an engine, like cars, planes and boats." Yes, that's true—because burning fossil fuel creates the problem. What the WSJ fails to mention is that these sources are already regulated by the USEPA under the Clean Air Act for their other harmful emissions and such restrictions have not eliminated the use of coal-fired power and other fossil fuels as far as I know as WSJ warns would happen now. Instead, our air is vastly cleaner than it used to be unlike, say Beijing, which has no Clean Air Act and the pollution is the equivalent of smoking two packs of cigarettes daily. Oh, by the way, the USEPA that issued this "blueprint" works for President Bush, not presidential candidate Obama.

• The WSJ asserts that regulations have costs (duh!), but fails to note that there are almost always benefits and it goes on to say the "costs would far exceed the burden of a straight carbon tax or cap-and-trade system enacted by Congress." Considering neither USEPA nor Congress have issued estimates of fees, taxes, or cap-trade allowance costs, one wonders what crystal ball (or crystal meth) WSJ is using to make such a definitive statement (note to self: WSJ apparently favors new taxes!).

I don't generally mind the fact that the WSJ gets a lot of its environmental and energy reporting wrong, because you can't be good at everything. I assume those tiny-font charts and tables with stock prices and hog belly futures trends are accurate and isn't that the main reason to invest a buck or two each day in the WSJ? But one would assume they'd ask their editorial writers to blow hard, but accurate. Whatever side of the global warming solutions debate you are on, I think you'll agree the last thing we need is more hot air. ———- Terry Tamminen is author of Lives Per Gallon: The True Cost of Our Oil Addiction. You can visit him at m