September 19, 2014 | Commentary on Economic Analysis, Climate Change, Regulation

The Latest Anti-Small-Business Effort to Stop Global Warming

There is one policy arena in which President Obama definitely does not lead from behind: the imposition of costly and pointless environmental regulation.

The president on Tuesday announced a crackdown on hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), a group of coolants used in virtually every home, office, and automobile. Unless we discontinue their use, we are told, the oceans will swallow our coastlines, hurricanes will lay waste to entire states, and all creatures great and small will fry under scorching temperatures.

The true believers are deadly serious about this. Eco-lawyer Durwood Zaelke told the Washington Post: “If we don’t deal with the HFC problem now, in the future these gases are going to kill us.”

It’s all a scam. Banning HFCs will have essentially no impact on global climate. In the first place, despite increases in so-called greenhouse gases, there’s been no warming during the past 15 years — which thoroughly contradicts all the climate modeling cited by the warm-mongers. But even if greenhouse gases such as HFCs were solidly linked to climate change, unilateral reductions by the U.S. would be insignificant compared with the increased emissions emanating from China, India, and the rest of the developing world. (Ironically, the federal government promoted the use of HFCs beginning in the late 1980s, as a substitute for the chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) that were blamed for thinning the Earth’s ozone layer.)

As a bit of camouflage for this latest regulatory incursion, the president secured “voluntary” commitments from some of America’s largest corporations to reduce HFC emissions and to phase out their use.  (One wonders just how many highly regulated corporations would likely spurn a request for such “voluntary” action from the regulator-in-chief.)

The companies that pledged to cooperate — including Coca Cola, Target, DuPont, and the like — won’t be crushed by the costs of converting to alternative coolants.

But it’s different for the little guys, who will be hardest hit by an outright ban on a variety of HFCs proposed by the EPA in June. For example, in comments submitted to the agency, Bryan Tonn of Dallas-based restaurant-equipment maker H&K International said that forcing HFC conversions under a ridiculously tight deadline “will cripple small manufacturers by raising costs and could halt development of new and innovative products as resources will be consumed by a search for such alternatives.” The proposed ban, of course, also coincides with a raft of other costly new regulations.  

Ever one to oblige the United Nations, the president timed his HFC pronouncement as world leaders prepare to meet next week for the 2014 U.N. Climate Summit in New York City. The meeting is a run-up to an international conference on global warming slated for 2015 in Paris.

The HFC crackdown is just the latest example of what makes this administration the most aggressive set of regulators in the nation’s history. In its first five years, annual regulatory costs increased by more than $73 billion. Not surprisingly, the EPA is responsible for the largest portion of the most costly regulations — for the vast majority of them, the benefits aren’t worth the costs.

Americans would be a whole lot better off if the administration cooled down its rulemaking rather than scrambling to address overhyped threats.

 - Diane Katz is a research fellow in regulatory policy at the Heritage Foundation’s Roe Institute for Economic Policy Studies.

About the Author

Diane Katz Senior Research Fellow in Regulatory Policy
Thomas A. Roe Institute for Economic Policy Studies

Originally appeared in National Review Online