WASHINGTON -- Hundreds of industries, groups, and even some states have taken the Environmental Protection Agency to court in an attempt to block it from regulating carbon dioxide.
Since the EPA declared CO2 a harmful pollutant, by law it must treat it like other toxins, meaning the agency may have to regulate more than 6 million sources of CO2.
Heritage Foundation economists predict such a move will cost the economy almost $7 trillion by the year 2029, in some years more than $600 billion.
If that happens, the Cato Institute's Patrick Michaels said it would be "the most sweeping and intrusive regulatory effort in the history of this country."
Some fear CO2 will cause so much global warming, they believe the government should regulate the gas. That's what Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., told EPA administrator Lisa Jackson at a congressional hearing this week.
"They understand that stalling action on climate change means more intense and frequent heat waves, more droughts, more flooding, more loss of coastline," Waxman said.
Opponents worry the EPA may soon be sticking its nose into almost every American's life, and many of them took on the agency in a federal court in the nation's capitol this week.
"There were literally hundreds of petitioners challenging these regulations," Ted Hadzi-Antich, with the Pacific Legal Foundation, told CBN News.
Some protested labeling CO2, one of nature's most common elements, harmful.
"Carbon dioxide of course, as everybody knows, is a ubiquitous natural substance that's absolutely essential to life on earth," Hadzi-Antich said.
"CO2 makes plants grow better," Michaels said.
"You and I are major emitting sources of carbon dioxide," Hadzi-Antich noted.
And because it comes from almost everything, "This is the first EPA regulation that's casting its net to virtually every nook and cranny of the national economy," he explained.
The regulation is likely to cost 800,000 jobs a year, and in some industries, more than 50 percent of the work force will be wiped out.
The EPA realizes the public's not ready to put up with that. Consequently, the agency changed the Clean Air Act so, at least at the start, it only has to go after huge CO2 emitters, like power plants and big factories.
But that move has led many to complain that only Congress can legally revise the Clean Air Act.
"That's a sweeping change in the law that the people would have to approve, not some faceless bureaucrat in the Environmental Protection Agency," Michaels said.
Influential forces are pushing for radical action by EPA.
"If the world doesn't change course on climate now, within just 10 years, we will have built enough high carbon energy infrastructure to lock our planet into an irreversible and devastating amount of global warming," Waxman said.
If the courts do force the EPA to regulate most carbon-emitters, it won't just hit producers and manufacturers, but even 37,000 places of worship.
"I mean if they run a kitchen -- they're going to be regulated," Hadzi-Antich said.
And what do proponents of regulating CO2 believe all this will accomplish?
During the next 50 years, scientists figure the temperature will only drop about 8-hundreths of a degree Celsius.
"That's an amount that's too small to measure, but the costs are enormous," Michaels noted.
--Published Mar. 2, 2012.