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Balanced Fare: We Report, You Deride

Tuesday, November 26, 2002

Krugman Takes A Deep Breath

And we get to see him inhale. Oh, man, that was old when I read it in MAD Magazine thirty years ago.

OK, the subject is the "Clear Skies Initiative", and "new source review". The proposed "Clear Skies" legislation has been stuck in Congress, with environmentalists holding out for regulation of carbon dioxide, and the Administration resisting - this is the three pollutants versus four pollutants discussion alluded to in the story.

So, the Administration waives some rules which have been hanging about, pending new regulation. Does Prof. K have a theory?

Last week's announcement is, I believe, a signal that even Clear Skies isn't going to happen.

Aside from cynicism (which has been an almost infallible guide to administration environmental policy so far), how do I reach that conclusion?

Here's one reason: If a cap-and-trade system is just around the corner, why not wait and introduce the whole system at once? As the E.P.A. press release last week correctly declares, "under the Clear Skies Initiative, NSR [new source review] would no longer be necessary." But then why did polluters so badly want an immediate end to such review before a new system could be put in place? And why was the administration willing to accept lots of bad press for a clearly anti-environmental move, if it was seriously planning to impose new controls in the next year or two? The obvious answer is that both the polluters and top administration officials know that Clear Skies is, figuratively and literally, a smokescreen.

Well, it's obvious to some people. My suspicion is that we will see a prompt resolution of the three pollutant / four pollutant problem, now that environmentalists can contemplate an unhappy alternative. The previous status quo was tolerable - this is not.

So, a simple negotiating ploy to shake loose the bargaining position of the other side? Black clouds of smoke will not begin belching forth until a substantial regulatory review, and several lawsuits, have been addressed, as ABC reports:

The proposed rules will not take effect until the EPA has collected and analyzed feedback from utilities, green groups, and others.

Has the "bad cop" entered the bargaining room? Seems obvious to me. But maybe it is a smokescreen.

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