High Ruling on EPA Mostly Ceremonial

    Tree-huggers everywhere have a little something extra to celebrate during the upcoming Earth Week festivities – the operative word being little.

    Last week’s Supreme Court ruling faulted the Environmental Protection Agency for failing to reduce emission standards for vehicles as instructed by the Clean Air Act, spurring quite a bit of excitement from many environmentalists.

    But despite the overwhelming applause – what the Los Angeles Times called a “”gratifying victory”” for California on April 3 – the ruling is hardly the antidote to global warming that some journalists have made it out to be. In fact, the decision represents the genesis of an intensified struggle to freeze the long-realized effects of global warming. And for the American people, this victory allows no return to complacency. If anything, it is a call to arms – a mobilizing impetus to protect the earth and hug more trees.

    For that reason, we should appreciate the decision as a shove toward action rather than a solution. In fact, the resulting EPA regulations are likened to a watered-down compromise between the antagonistic Bush administration, big business and environmentalists. This will force states, some of which already have plans (like California), to pass standards that are tougher than those of the EPA.

    The case, however, serves as a valuable lesson that the EPA and the Bush administration can no longer be left unmonitored and unaccountable when it comes to issues of global warming. If so, they will continue favoring big, profit-driven businesses.

    So although the Supreme Court ruling to some extent forces EPA action, environmental reform hardly stops there. Americans still have a responsibility to support Democrats in their push for stricter, eco-friendly legislation.

    As for the Democrats, if they want a presidential win in 2008, they’ll have to work for it. It will take more than simply capitalizing on the recent popularity of environmental issues like global warming and the politics surrounding them. It will take following through on their plans to pass a broad global warming reform bill and delivering on those promises.

    But protecting Mother Nature with greener standards will no doubt present a struggle, as the country currently emits a staggering 25 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, according to an April 8 article in the New York Times. Any changes to these numbers will require a hefty amount of research not only on reducing carbon dioxide emissions, but on alternative, cleaner energy sources. And research in turn requires a sizeable amount of funding – funding that needs to come from Americans.

    Moreover, opposition to change does not stop with the EPA. Automakers and oil lobbyists risk losing the most from stricter environmental legislation and will therefore stand as the biggest hitch in progress by lobbying for weaker changes. They have, however, raised a valid point. Effectively reducing greenhouse gas emissions means not simply placing tougher standards on the auto industry, but rather effecting changes throughout many economic markets.

    Furthermore, maintaining a stable economy, avoiding excess government regulation on the economy and encouraging company research on earth-friendly technology requires new and higher monetary incentives for such endeavors. California’s Self-Generation Incentive Program, signed by former governor Gray Davis in 2000, was a start, as it discounted energy costs for customers with energy-generating equipment like microturbines, small gas turbines, wind turbines, photovoltaics, fuel cells and internal combustion engines. But this time last year SDGandE took a backward step in the push for a cleaner state by reducing some of these savings.

    Savings aside, the ruling was a huge step in the right direction, but it was also an overdue victory that will be followed by a long road to cleaner standards. And as for the Bush administration: This train is leaving, so either get on board or get out of the way.

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