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The Supremes Gone Wild

IT’S NOT JUST COLLEGE GIRLS who go wild during spring break. In its recent ruling criticizing the Environmental Protection Agency …

IT’S NOT JUST COLLEGE GIRLS who go wild during spring break. In its recent ruling criticizing the Environmental Protection Agency for giving “no reasoned explanation” for its refusal to regulate carbon dioxide and other emissions from new cars and trucks, the U.S. Supreme Court dealt a body blow to the current Administration’s opposition to set mandatory limits on CO2 emissions-despite the fact that Congress has considered and rejected such proposals in the past.

Not content with this latest foray into judicial activism, the Supremes also ruled that the EPA must provide a sound scientific rationale if it chooses not to regulate auto emissions in the future. Not surprisingly, the ruling left the environmentalists ecstatic. The greens and most media accounts see the decision as a big win for wind, solar and renewable energy sources favored by the Sierra Club and its co-religionists. But a closer reading of the ruling may lead to a different result. The economic and technological limitations of such alternatives are at present too great for them to be anything other than niche players. And CEOs should be wary in seeking regulatory rulemaking, and tax credits for pursuing energy alternatives of dubious economic value.

The Supremes, in their eagerness to thumb their noses at the legislative branch and rewrite laws with which it disagrees, have opened the door to one source of power that is blissfully free of greenhouse gases: nuclear energy.

While some of the economics of new plant construction have to be worked out, there are signs that nuclear is poised for a comeback. Over three-fourths of the leaders surveyed in our CEO Index last July voiced strong support for nuclear as a step towards energy independence. Speaking at the Manhattan Institute recently, former U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission chairman Nils Diaz said that the 103 nuclear plants operating in the U.S. have an excellent environmental record. Besides, any logical solution to the climate change problem must put every alternative on the table. We can’t get there with windmills and conservation alone.

Time For a New Appraisal

WE NOW KNOW THAT IRAQ isn’t Germany and Japan. Having described the Middle East as a region whose population desperately wants the freedoms the West takes for granted, the President described a country that, once liberated from the deprivations of a brutal tyrant, would hasten to rebuild its society and create some semblance of representative government. Today we know differently. Since 2003 we have looked in vain for Iraq‘s John Adams or James Madison. And forget about finding its Washington or even its Kemal Ataturk.

In the coming years, there will be much finger-pointing about what went wrong. We know that the war on terrorism is unlike conventional wars with battlefields and clear military objectives. We know that terrorism is a tactic, not an enemy, and that an interventionist foreign policy engenders almost more enmity among allies as it does with adversaries. But before we retreat into isolationism, we need an honest and balanced appraisal of our many tactical successes not our strategic failure. Iraq is not Vietnam, however, it’s time for an honest debate not only about the trade-offs between security and peace, but the implications that U.S. foreign policy objectives have for trade, jobs and economic growth. Business leaders have a stake in the larger geopolitical environment. They should also find their voice.

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