Is it irony or just business as usual when a government agency is prevented from performing the functions it was established for? This is what might happen to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. A new bill, the Energy Tax Prevention Act, moving through Congress would keep the EPA from regulating carbon dioxide emissions of power plants and oil refineries. While the bill addresses some economic concerns, if passed it would render the EPA almost completely unable to monitor dangerous greenhouse gases.

A U.S. House committee passed a bill last Tuesday to prevent the EPA from regulating the amount of CO2 produced by power plants and oil refineries. The bill will now move to the House, where it will likely pass.

Scientific data offered by the Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center, indicates that atmospheric CO2 concentrations haven’t increased significantly in the 850 years preceding the Industrial Revolution. But since the onset of the Industrial Revolution in 1850, CO2 concentrations increased by about 40 percent, according to a Jan. 12 New York Times article. Since this increase has been directly linked to the environmental threat of global warming, it’s highly irrational to limit the powers of the federal agency that’s responsible for preventing a potential catastrophe.

Even worse, coal power plants supply almost half the consumed electricity in the U.S., and coal emits the highest CO2 concentrations of any known fuel. Essentially, the House committee has decided to stick with the status quo by keeping gas and electricity cheap and precluding the EPA from taking measures that would encourage the search for affordable, alternative fuels. Climate models show that the Earth’s temperature could rise as much as 11 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the 21st century. Clearly, this isn’t a problem that can be ignored, but that’s precisely what this bill intends to do.

It’s true that the rapidly rising costs of fuel represent a profound economic problem. But in this case, the livelihood of our entire planet trumps short-term financial comfort. Our country is responsible for 30 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, and Americans have greater emissions per capita than almost any other nation. So far, our government has taken swift steps to reverse global warming, and companies like BP have responded positively. In spite of their huge environmental disaster with last summer’s massive oil spill, BP has invested in wind power, solar power and carbon capture interests. If the government sets a precedent by protecting companies that cause global warming, they’ll discourage the initiatives by the companies that seek alternative fuel sources.

Congressman Fred Upton (R—Mich.) claims that the Energy Tax Prevention Act he’s sponsoring will rein in the federal government and ensure that the EPA doesn’t inhibit “free enterprise and personal liberty.” That seems to be a rather forgiving description of energy industries whose practices have traded our health and safety for financial interests for over a century. This bill should be rejected by the House to indicate Congress’s commitment to environmental responsibility.

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