Obama’s Carbon Busters

That’s the headline on a Wall Street Journal editorial today examining President-elect Obama’s expected energy and environmental team. In turning to Carol Browner to fill the new position of White House energy and environment coordinator — the Green Czarina? — the President-elect has chosen an official whose record reflects a belief in regulation as the preferred answer to any environmental policy question. Economic vitality isn’t much of a consideration.

The Journal interprets the Browner appointment as indication of the next Administration’s plans to regulate carbon dioxide as a pollutant under the Clean Air Act.

The Obama Administration is “sitting on some authority,” Ms. Browner warned at the Center for American Progress recently. She says the White House is prepared to use that power “in the event that perhaps there can’t be some sort of agreement reached with Congress on how to move legislation.” In other words, Ms. Browner will use the threat of brute regulatory force as a political bludgeon if Capitol Hill declines to inflict some carbon tax on voters in the midst of a recession.

Not only will this incur colossal economic costs, but it bypasses normal democratic debate. In that sense it’s suggestive of the radicalism of Mr. Obama’s climate agenda. When Mr. Obama said during the campaign that he favored “nothing less than the complete transformation of our economy” in the name of global warming, we figured he couldn’t mean something so utopian. Maybe he does.

As for the “team of rivals” hype, the rest of Mr. Obama’s energy list is heavy with Ms. Browner’s acolytes. Lisa Jackson, for 16 years a top EPA enforcement officer, will now run that agency. At the White House Council on Environmental Quality will be Nancy Sutley, who was Ms. Browner’s special assistant at EPA. At a Congressional hearing last year, Ms. Browner declared that trying to eliminate carbon — a main input of industrial civilization — “need not bankrupt us.” As a standard for policy, that’s not exactly reassuring.

Our private-sector acquaintances in New Jersey have good things to say about Lisa Jackson, regarding her as someone business can work with. At least one environmentalist group — Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility — has attacked Jackson for being insufficiently green, so that’s another mark in her favor.

So Jackson, if nominated, will likely be confirmed by the U.S. Senate. Meanwhile, as a White House advisor and coordinator, Browner could escape the Senate confirmation process.

Speaking of bypassing normal democratic debate…

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