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Supreme Court Decides Against Bush Administration

by Florian Roetzer Wednesday, Apr. 11, 2007 at 3:11 PM

Even if a refduction of greenhouse gases cannot reverse the climate warming, a national reduction would still delay this, irrespective of what happens in other countries.


The reasons for the Bush administration’s refusal to set upper limits for the car emissions of greenhouse gases are invalidated in an important decision

By Florian Roetzer

[This article published in the German-English cyber journal Telepolis, 4/3/2007 is translated from the German on the World Wide Web,]

The Bush administration closely entwined with the energy- and oil sector waged a war on account of energy policy and consistently refuses obligations to reduce greenhouse gases. With astounding impudence, the Bush administration exerts pressure on scientists [1], revised reports on climate change [“Muzzle for US Scientists” (2)], spared corporations in favor of the economy and prevented climate warming from becoming a political theme for as long as possible. After climate policy was pushed to the sidelines, Bush was recently outed in an open letter [3] as a defender of climate protection that he allegedly has taken very seriously since the beginning of his term in office.

Despite all protestations of being concerned about protecting the atmosphere, the Environmental Protection Agency [4} and the White House refused upper limits for the emission of greenhouse gases by cars prescribed in the Clean Air Act [5], the 1970 law to keep the air clean. The Environmental Protection Agency hardly tried to implement the demands formulated in the law and affirmed in a GAO report [6] from June 2006.

Since the Bush administration in 2001 refused to limit the omission of greenhouse gases by cars to the advantage of the auto industry, 12 states led by California and 13 environmental organizations sued the government since the law prescribes regulating all substances that pollute the air and present risks for public health and well-being. With a thin majority of five to four, the Supreme Court has now invalidated the reasons of the Bush administration for not setting any ceiling for the pollution emissions of new cars. The Bush administration encouraged a consortium of auto companies (GM, Ford, BMW, VW, Daimler-Chrysler, Toyota and several others) to reject any regulation in times of increasing sales of gas-guzzling SUVs.

For a long while, these demands were resisted with the argument the Environmental Protection Agency did not have authority to set upper limits for emissions of greenhouse gases. Alleged scientific reasons were cited. Thus the Department of Justice declared [7] the claimants did not have to prove car exhaust fumes from new vehicles in the US actually contribute and that this pollution is not caused “by greenhouse gases from other sources in the US, greenhouse gases from vehicles or other sources outside the US or from very different factors.” Cars in the US emit 315 million tons of carbon dioxide. All vehicles in the US have a 7 percent share in the global emission of CO2, largely from vehicles. One argument of auto firms was that a reduction of CO2 emissions for new vehicles would not have any “measurable” effect on climate warming. The Supreme Court ruling will cost the corporations billions of dollars. Vehicles must be re-equipped. As a result, corporations will bring smaller cars on the market and earn less profit.

According to the Supreme Court decision, the environmental authority can regulate the emissions of greenhouse gases from new cars as required by the Clean Air Act since this is “air pollution” in the sense of the law. The court also said the EPA need not do this if the agency presents an adequate explanation that greenhouse gases do not contribute to climate warming. Otherwise the court reject rejected the list of reasons offered by the White House why no regulation could be introduced. The president, the defendants claimed, could not fix any upper limits because “this would hinder him from negotiating reduction of greenhouse gases with important developing countries.” The president, as we read in the majority opinion, has great authority in foreign policy and cannot hinder implementing domestic laws. In addition, the US government argued a regulation would impede scientific research and technical innovation.

Furthermore, the decision [8] held that well-documented global warming is occurring with a significant increase in greenhouse gases. Respected scientists see a connection between these two facts. The consequences of global warming are “serious and well-known” and represent a global and local threat. Even if a reduction of greenhouse gases cannot reverse the climate warming, a national reduction would still delay this warming, irrespective of what happens in other countries.

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