Recognizing the Danger

Washington, D.C. -- This morning President Obama took another major step forward into the future, having the Environmental Protection Agency acknowledge that carbon dioxide is an air pollutant that endangers public health and welfare, and which must be regulated under the Clean Air Act. This action, tied with the President's speech on Thursday calling for the U.S. to establish a national high speed rail network, stepped up the pace of the President's effort to create a new energy economy another notch.

Today's "endangerment finding," based on tens of thousands of public comments and years of work by the EPA's career staff and scientists, ends more than two years of uncertainty following the Supreme Court's landmark Massachusetts v. EPA decision and brings to a close the Bush Administration era of climate denial. The EPA now has both the authority and the obligation to regulate global warming pollution, with concrete action on motor vehicle emissions expected soon.
In response, the Sierra Club immediately launched a major national campaign to mobilize the American people behind President Obama's leadership.

Meanwhile, the President's opponents seemed stuck in a peculiar time warp. Fox News and the entire apparatus of right-wing radio tried desperately to relaunch the anti-tax rebellions of the 1980s, calling for a massive mobilization of "tea parties" on April 15. Fox alone ran 107 commercials. Americans for Prosperity—a front group for megapolluter Koch Industries—was one of the main drivers behind what Speaker Pelosi called "astroturf" events. Some of us are old enough to remember a book and movie called "the House that Roared;" well, this was more like the elephant that squeaked! With the full support of a television network and a radio juggernaut, the right could muster only 300,000 protestors nationally.

The whole event had a kind of retro feel: not only did the protestors hark back to the Boston Tea Party (which was about representation, not taxes), but the Civil War was brought into the picture as well. The biggest news coming from the rallies appears to have been in Texas, where Governor Rick Perry said that Texas might just need to secede from the union if the federal government keeps on taxing and spending. Perry asserted that Texas had retained the right to secession when it entered the Union—a history blunder of such magnitude that you have to wonder if the Governor ever took history and heard about the Civil War.