President Obama doesn’t want to run the auto industry, but he had to, temporarily of course, to save the economy. And Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency Lisa Jackson doesn’t want to regulate carbon dioxide, but the EPA seems intent on moving forward regardless. Fortunately, Congress could shorten the EPA’s long, regulatory leash by amending the Interior-Environment appropriations spending bill early next week.

The Environmental Protection Agency issued a proposed endangerment finding in April, saying that global warming and climate change pose a serious threat to public health and safety and thus almost anything that emits carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases could be regulated under the Clean Air Act. The agency is already targeting the ailing auto industry. New regulations are proposing that the fleet average must reach 35.5 miles per gallon by 2016, which will increase the price and decrease the safety of the vehicle.

Earlier in September, Jackson said prefers cap and trade to regulating greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act:

Legislation is so important, because it will combine the most efficient, most economy-wide, least costly (and) least disruptive way to deal with carbon dioxide pollution. We get further faster without top-down regulation.”

The amendment planning to be offered would prevent those top down regulations that could include new standards for hotels, retail stores, apartment complexes, restaurants, airplanes, ocean-going freighters and tankers and even lawnmowers. And the regulations would be costly. Heritage economists modeled the effects of proposed EPA regulations and found:

• Cumulative gross domestic product (GDP) losses are nearly $7 trillion by 2029 (in infla­tion-adjusted 2008 dollars), according to The Heritage Foundation/Global Insight model (described in Appendix A).
• Single-year GDP losses exceed $600 billion (in inflation-adjusted 2008 dollars).
• Annual job losses exceed 800,000 for several years.
• Some industries will see job losses that exceed 50 percent.

The full report is available here. It’s safe to say these cost estimates are low since the model does not consider the substantial administrative costs of complying with the new regulations. And keep in mind, the job losses are after accounting for “green” job creation.

Congressman Collin Peterson (D-MN) weighed in, arguing the EPA would gain tremendous power and micromanage the economy:

With or without Congressional action, EPA will be free to regulate greenhouse gases, resulting in one of the largest and most bureaucratic nightmares that the U.S. economy and Americans have ever seen. And, with EPA in the lead, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, arguably the voice of agriculture and rural America, would be left out of the process. Let me be clear, this is not a responsibility we want to leave in the hands of EPA.”

Whether it’s cap-and-trade legislation or EPA’s proposed regulations, attempting to restrict energy use by cutting carbon dioxide would be toxic to an ill economy. Even in the best of economic times, this policy would likely end them.