One Last Thing, Undecided Voters: Obama Would Regulate CO2 as a Pollutant Under Clean Air Act

  • Published on November 3rd, 2008

air pollution from smokestack against blue sky

[social_buttons]If you haven’t made up your mind who to vote for in tomorrow’s presidential election, I’m not sure that what I am about to tell you will help — but it just might. Both candidates told the web site sciencedebate2008 that they accept the scientific agreement that greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels are changing the Earth’s climate. And both candidates have said they want to cap emissions produced by the burning of those fossil fuels.

But only Barack Obama has said he would regulate CO2 as a pollutant under the Clean Air Act.

President George W. Bush has declined to curb CO2 emissions under the auspices of the Clean Air Act, despite the fact that the Supreme Court ruled in 2007 that the federal government must do so.

If elected, the Democratic senator from Illinois will tell the Environmental Protection Agency that it may use the 1990 Clean Air Act to set emissions limits on power plants and manufacturers, according to his energy adviser Jason Grumet.

If elected, Obama would be the first president to group emissions blamed for global warming into a category of pollutants that includes lead and carbon monoxide. Obama’s rival in the presidential race, Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona, has not said how he would treat CO2 under the act.

Image: © Ben Heys |

About the Author

is the founder of ecopolitology and the executive editor at LiveOAK Media, a media network about the politics of energy and the environment, green business, cleantech, and green living. When not reading, writing, thinking or talking about environmental politics with anyone who will listen, Tim spends his time skiing in Colorado's high country, hiking with his dog, and getting dirty in his vegetable garden.


  • Joe-

    I could have, but I don't think anyone really knows what the impact would actually be. The fact that the EPA has said it would lead to "absurd results," as you posit, is part of the problem itself. The EPA, under the direction of Bush, has hemmed and hawed about regulating CO2 despite the Supreme Court of the U.S. ordering in to do so. THAT is the issue at stake here.

    You may be right, perhaps the Clean Air Act is not the best policy mechanism to control CO2, but it is illegal for the EPA to simply ignore the SCOTUS decision. And until there is some sort of carbon tax or cap and trade enacted, that is what we have to work with.

  • Your post could have done a little more to discuss what the impact of that decision would be. While it may sound good in theory to regulate CO2 under the CAA, the structure of the Act would lead to absurd results (EPA's own words). Thousands of more permits…triggering regulation down to your local department store.

  • This is so awsome for the green movement and everybody. Now we can ship those nasty manufacturing, auto, pharma, plastic, and other jobs to countries with less stringent laws. I mean who wants to be paid a measly $50k – $100k per year anyway. lol…let's reap it

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