Let me get the caveats out of the way first. Though I know that some White House officials have toyed with the idea I'm sketching out below, there are by no means any plans to run with it. But for those who fret that the Congressional budget resolutions have taken all the arrows out of the executive quiver to deal with climate change, listen up. Very simply, the EPA could draft a rule on carbon dioxide that contains language allowing it to be superseded by Congress when it passes a cap-and-trade system or an outright tax on carbon emissions. EPA would therefore be able to regulate CO2 without delay; if Congress failed to act, the EPA rule would stay in effect. The regulations could be written in a way that they tighten over time, thereby giving Congress (and industry) a political and economic incentive to supercede them. If Congress doesn't act on climate change by, say, December of 2009, the Obama administration will face significant international pressure at Copenhagen to show its work. And at that point, the administration may well threaten to ask EPA to draft a rule, which could spur Congress into acting in 2010.
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