If the "global warming" treaty negotiated last fall in Kyoto, Japan, and signed by President Clinton isn't ratified by Congress - a likely outcome -it may end up being implemented by decree.
The White House has dropped loud hints since the negotiations ended that should the Senate fail to ratify the manifesto, the president will simply issue executive orders to force reductions in "greenhouse gases."
"The United States must be prepared to commit to realistic and binding goals on our emission of greenhouse gases," warned Timothy Wirth, former undersecretary of state for global affairs. "If we expect other nations to act on the problem, we must show leadership."
About a month ago, word leaked that the Environmental Protection Agency is drafting new air-quality rules to enact parts of the Kyoto treaty through the federal Clean Air Act.
If the EPA is busy figuring out how to implement the Kyoto treaty, it's a fair bet the agency is acting with the blessing of the president. But Clinton may be ready to go even further.
In fact, no president before him has made such abundant use of executive orders. And if the people's elected representatives say "no" to the White House, as Republican leaders have made clear they probably will, it's doubtful the president would suffer any pangs about going over their heads yet again.
Sound far-fetched? Not at all.
Clinton signed Executive Order 12919, relating to national defense and industrial resource preparedness, in June '94. In a section called "Priorities and Allocations," the president gives himself authority to "require acceptance and priority performance of contracts or orders (other than contracts to employment) to promote the national defense over performance of any other contracts or orders, and to allocate materials, services and facilities as deemed necessary or appropriate to promote the national defense."
This is pretty straightforward stuff: Under "emergency" conditions, the president gets to move national resources around like chess pieces, deciding what can be used, under what conditions and by whom.
Then consider Executive Order 10997, a Kennedy-era leftover, which empowers the secretary of the interior to seize all energy production facilities, specifically, "electric power, petroleum, gas, solid fuels and minerals."
That order also gives the president authority to "prepare plans to claim materials, manpower, equipment, supplies and services needed in support of assigned responsibilities and other essential functions of the Department to insure availability of such resources in an emergency" (emphasis mine).
Of course, an "emergency" as understood then would have been something on the order of nuclear war with the Soviets. But these days, the currency of crisis has been cheapened substantially. It wouldn't take much public-relations flogging to make carbon dioxide emission levels an "emergency" justifying use of the powers listed in both executive orders.
So how do the Clintonites define "emergency"?
Look no further than Vice President Al Gore's perfervid tract, "Earth in the Balance." In it, Gore writes earnestly of the impending "global ecological crisis" and questions "the very nature of our civilization and its relationship to the global environment." He goes on to say the automobile "is posing a mortal threat to the security of every nation that is more deadly than any military enemy we are ever likely again to confront."
There you have it.
If curbing output of carbon dioxide enough to reduce atmospheric concentrations of this gas requires a 50% decline in the use of private cars, the solution is at hand - impose a $2 or more surcharge on each gallon of fuel.
If those measures prove inadequate, the president could use his authority to outlaw the use of personal vehicles on even-numbered days. More or less draconian solutions could be imposed as the winds of whim blow.
Of course, they would be disastrous.
Cheap, abundant energy has propelled the surging economy. And low energy costs have made it possible for average people to afford full- sized cars, light trucks and sport-utility vehicles instead of the tiny death traps favored by lunatic-fringe environmentalists.
True, a green dictatorship through executive order is fairly remote at the moment. But it should give everyone who drives a sport- utility vehicle or large car a moment's pause to reflect that Clinton has already erected the means by which Captain Planet - Al Gore's alter ego - could implement the radical green agenda by decree.
Eric Peters writes on automotive issues for The Washington Times.
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