Senate Votes to Let the EPA Ration Energy, Ah, Carbon

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Carbon rationing

By a vote of 53 to 47, the Senate defeated a resolution proposed by Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) that would have blocked the Environmental Protection Agency from beginning to regulate the emissions of greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act.

Now that the resolution has failed, beginning in July 2011 the EPA will start requiring some 15,000 carbon emitters, including coal-fired electricity generation plants, oil refineries, cement manufacturers, and solid waste landfills to have permits for their emissions. This requirement would affect entities that emit about 70 percent of the country's greenhouse gases. The new rules require emitters to use the "best available technology" to control their emissions.

Top-down centralized pollution control regulations are notoriously expensive and cumbersome. The Obama administration and the Democratic leadership will now use the EPA "stick" to beat Congress into voting for slightly less onerous cap-and-trade carbon rationing.