Environment, Midwest, Politics

Logico-Rhetorical Analysis: Fred Upton on the Clean Air Act

Fred Upton, Columnist?

Frequent Thought News punching bag Representative Fred Upton (R-Mich.) published a comedy “Viewpoint” column in last week’s Kalamazoo Gazette. I’m pretty sure it’s tongue-in-cheek, but Fred’s sense of humor is so resolutely droll (ex: “I vote against child marriage bills that I’m co-sponsoring! Haha-ha-HA!”) that I’m going to risk taking him seriously. Let’s do this “Fire Joe Morgan” style (FJM bloggers: I still check once in a while to see if you’ve decided to pick it back up again…).

It’s pretty simple: Fred’s text is in bold. My commentary is not.

Energy Tax Prevention Act won’t weaken Clean Air Act

Ok, fair enough. That’s a clear thesis statement in your headline, Fred. You’re off to a good start.

We continue to endure tough times here in Southwest Michigan and across the country. Unemployment remains high as gas prices hurtle toward $4 a gallon. And yet, despite our economic maladies, there are unelected bureaucrats in Washington furiously working on regulations that will not only circumvent Congress, but also send more manufacturing jobs overseas and increase costs at the pump.

Huh. Not sure what this has to do with the thesis, but hey, run with it, big guy.

During the last Congress, legislation was introduced to regulate greenhouse gases through a program known as cap-and-trade.

Yeah, I remember that. You were a big cap-and-trade fan, right? After all, back in the 1990s, you backed it!

That effort failed as Democrats and Republicans alike recognized such a proposal would cost hundreds of thousands of jobs, make America less competitive, and raise gas and energy costs for everyone—all without significant environmental benefit. Such a policy would have been an economic dagger for struggling states such as Michigan, Ohio and Indiana.

That’s right. You changed positions on cap-and-trade.

Growing up on the shores of Lake Michigan, I have always favored common-sense environmental policies, believing that we can create jobs and be good stewards of the environment at the same time. I also believe overreaching regulation is neither appropriate nore helpful.

Yes. You have “ALWAYS FAVORED” common-sense environmental policies, except when you haven’t. Do you think we haven’t been listening? Do you think we don’t pay attention when you talk? Do you expect us to forget? Are the Koch-Industries-campaign-dollars going to your head? Your soul?

With cap-and-trade derailed by bipartisan opposition, the EPA has changed course, now seeking to regulate greenhouse gas emissions by bureaucratic fiat.

Yes. “Bureaucratic fiat.” That’s what you’re calling Supreme Court decisions? That’s what you’re calling the Court’s interpretation of congressional legislation? Word to the wise: inconvenient Court decisions don’t lose their heft just because you—and Big Oil—don’t like them.

Also, can we please all remember that the House of Representatives DID pass cap-and-trade as part of H.R. 2454?

To do so, the agency is attempting to grant itself new authority to impose greenhouse gas rules under the Clean Air Act, even though Congress rejected that intention.

No, Fred. The Supreme Court agreed that the EPA had the authority to develop these rules. Haven’t you been paying attention? The EPA’s just playing by the rules as interpreted by the Court. In fact, the Court ‘s decision read [emphasis added]:

The Administrator shall by regulation prescribe (and from time to time revise) in accordance with the provisions of this section, standards applicable to the emission of any air pollutant from any class or classes of new motor vehicles or new motor vehicle engines, which in his judgment cause, or contribute to, air pollution which may reasonably be anticipated to endanger public health or welfare.

The Court asked the EPA to propose these standards, in accordance with the Clean Air Act.

One other thing: so the last Congress couldn’t get its $#*^ together, but that hardly means that Congress “rejected” cap-and-trade.

(Also, “rejected that intention?” What kind of writing is that? What the hell does that mean? [Let's assume you had a lackey write this one, because otherwise I'd have to admit that the University of Michigan turns out graduates with subpar writing skills. Your lackey must have gone to Ohio State.])

Unless Congress intervenes, EPA’s efforts to impose a cap-and-trade agenda threaten to drive gas prices even higher, increase utility rates, send manufacturing jobs overseas, and hamstring our economic recovery.

Wait a second. You’re a GOP man, right? You don’t get to talk about hamstringing our economic recovery. That’s been the Republican platform for the last two years. Hush. Also, let’s not forget that your beholdenness to radical free-market ideology is part of what’s been lofting jobs across the oceans for decades.

Any further constraints on our domestic energy capacity or self-imposed increases on the costs of production will drive prices at the pump even higher.

Ha! Now is a good time to remind you that there’s little evidence that these VERY MODEST regulations will have much of an effect on energy prices. You seem to be confusing the EPA’s Supreme-Court-authorized work with H.R. 2454. After all, THE EPA’S PROPOSED REGULATIONS APPLY TO FACTORIES/SMOKESTACKS…NOT AUTOMOBILES. It’s pretty unlikely that it will affect “prices at the pump.”

Studies have estimated that previous legislative efforts to cap greenhouse gas emissions would drive up gas prices 19 cents by 2015 and 95 cents in 2050.

I knew it! “Previous legislative efforts” (H.R. 2454) were serious attempts to regulate greenhouse gases. This is much, much more modest effort. Don’t let that stop you from quoting irrelevant information, though!

Because EPA’s greenhouse gas regulations are designed to achieve similar goals as cap-and-trade legislation, and because such regulations would directly impact domestic refineries and production, the regulations are similarly expected to drive up the price of gasoline. In fact, per EPA itself, it is highly likely regulations will be even more costly than cap-and-trade legislation.

Wait, WHAT? Even though the data you’re citing was for a different policy approach entirely, you’re saying we can assume that it will have the same effects because it has the same intent? Really? I mean, that’s like saying that cocaine and alcohol are both attempts to escape from everyday anxiety, so we should regulate them identically. That’s like saying that Miguel Cabrera and Mark Reynolds are both trying to score runs, so we should assume that they have the same effect on a game.

Time to make one of these for Fred Upton?

Ok, my turn: Obama’s health care reform law is an attempt to reduce health care costs and provide access formore Americans. The GOP has promised to repeal it and provide an alternative bill that will reduce costs and provide access for more Americans. If Obama is a socialist, then so are YOU. In fact, “per the GOP itself, it is highly likely that Republicans are MORE committed socialists than the president.” Same goals=same policy, right? RIGHT?

This is fun, but it’s completely bogus, Fred.

You go on to tout your own legislation:

This bipartisan legislation (The Energy Tax Prevention Act), which passed my committee 34-19, would prevent EPA from regulating carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in an effort to address climate change, thereby upholding Congress’s original intent under the Clean Air Act while protecting jobs and keeping costs lower for households and employers.

Bwahahahaha! Now we’re protecting Congress’ original intent from the 1970s? Are you sure you wouldn’t rather ask the Founders?

Notice how Upton never actually addresses whether anthropogenic climate change is a serious policy concern? You’d think that this would be of primary importance when trying to interpret Congress’s original intent in passing the Clean Air Act. The Supreme Court—you know, the federal branch charged with interpreting laws—thought so. Upton does imply that the ETP Act is worth passing because it prevents the EPA from addressing climate change. I guess that means he’s suggesting that addressing it would be a mistake, but it’s hardly clear…

Still, it’s interesting that a column on not weakening the Clean Air Act would dodge that question. Come to think of it, it’s strange that a column on not weakening the Clean Air Act has thus far been all about the (completely unsubstantiated) economic risks of regulating carbon…and has said NOTHING about our environmental situation.

Unfortunately, there are some who will support EPA’s regulations no matter how many jobs will be lost or how high gas and energy prices will go.

Yes, perhaps your opponents are masochistic prosperity-hating a-holes who want revenge on the nation’s proletariat. Or maybe, just maybe, they—along with the guy who wrote your headline for you—take the data on climate change seriously. Maybe they “will support EPA’s regulations” because they believe that it will be good for our economy, or because they are terrified of the long-term effects of our oil addiction.

And they are distorting the facts to make their case.

No, Fred, that’s your job. You have yet to provide any empirical data backing your position…you’ve provided evidence for why you opposed H.R. 2454, but nothing on the EPA’s regulations. You chump.

The Energy Tax Prevention Act does allow states to continue setting climate policy as they see fit, but prevents those actions from being imposed nationally by unelected bureaucrats.

You DO know that the WORLD’S climate isn’t a local thing, right? It’s a global problem. The effects aren’t only going to hit the states that don’t regulate.

It does not weaken the Clean Air Act.

This is tantamount to saying “NUH-UH!” Got any proof, Fred? Your bill DOES limit the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the Clean Air Act.

It does not limit EPA’s ability to monitor and reduce pollutants such as lead and ozone that damage public health.

This really has nothing to do with the argument, and you know it. Rising sea levels, more frequent droughts, and more violent storms don’t damage public health?

Etc, etc…

I have supported such laws and have stood up to the big polluters, both in Washington and here at home.

Don’t say that too loudly…Koch and Co. are listening. You’ve got their pocket lint in your hair, buddy. You’ll forgive us if we discount this particular unsubstantiated assertion, right?

I remain focused on protecting our Great Lakes from invasive species such as the Asian carp, and have worked to prevent companies from increasing hazardous discharges into our precious waters.The Enbridge pipeline leak was a tragedy and you can be assured I will be using my chairmanship to reauthorize comprehensive pipeline safety legislation.

Yes, this is all really good, Fred, but it’s hardly the ONLY danger facing the Great Lakes. Cf. The effects of climate change on the lakes. It’s like stepping into an argument about abortion and saying, “I’m pro-life! I think that genocide is wrong!” It’s laudable, but it’s not really the argument we’re having. This is about climate change.

To that end, are you ever going to explain WHY your bill doesn’t narrow the Supreme-Court-authorized interpretation of the Clean Air Act?

As we focus on creating jobs and revitalizing Michigan’s economy, we cannot afford to hand over the keys to recovery to an unchecked federal agency.

I’ve hit this already. You can do better than that, Fred. “Unchecked?” Remember Massachusetts v. EPA? Remember that the Supreme Court asked the EPA to do this? Remember that it’s their job to interpret laws and the Constitution?

“Apoplectic” hardly covers it.

Our families and job creators deserve better.

That’s true. They deserve a congressman who can give an honest account for himself. They deserve a congressman who listens to them, not Koch Industries. They deserve a congressman who can take a position and hold it longer than a few minutes. They deserve an end to pandering. They deserve someone who believes that scientific facts matter.

But hey, Fred, I write columns all the time, and this is one of your rare efforts. Care to take a mulligan on this and try again?

About CPW

Conor P. Williams writes and teaches in Washington, D.C. Find him on Facebook or Twitter. Here’s his email. Here are his credentials.

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