Environmental Defense is sponsoring a protest of the EPA’s recent denial of California’s request for a Clean Air Act waiver to set its own higher automobile Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards to reduce greenhouse gas pollutants. Both California & the EPA’s moves affirmed by the supreme court’s summer decision acknowledging the EPA’s authority to regulate such global warming pollutants. The EPA claims that the newly passed U.S. Energy Bill already sets higher nationwide CAFE standards, so it struck down the waiver request to avoid a “patchwork of local regulations”.

I didn’t bother to sign-on to the Environmental Defense protest. While I don’t necessarily agree with the decision, I’m not a fan of CAFE standards. In my untutored opinion, the U.S. Energy Bill is morass of government regulation that does little to advance the cause of stemming greenhouse gas pollutants. I think the bill to push strongly for is the Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act, which would put hard caps on greenhouse gas pollutants & institute a market for trading carbon dioxide credits. The bill passed out of Senate Committee on December 5th & appears to have a bit of momentum behind it.

I believe that once we get hard emissions caps in place, we won’t have to worry about micromanaging renewable energy percentages or fleet economy standards. The market will take care of those details in the most efficient way it can find. Until those caps are in place, however, there’s nothing to stop simple economic growth from increasing the total output of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere even with higher CAFE standards in place, making both the California & the national CAFE standard increases of marginal consequence.