Is 'PROVE IT' Just an Act?

Rich Trzupek09 May, 2024 4 Min Read
More regulatory overreach from the feds.

If you’re employed in industry, one of the most frightening letters you can receive from the Environmental Protection Agency is an official Information Collection Request, known in the business as an “ICR.” The name sounds benign enough, but it’s not. Like most every government agency you can think of, the EPA does not ask for information because they are interested in increasing their general fund of knowledge. They ask for information because they intend to use that information.

That purpose might be to help develop new regulations, or it might be a fishing expedition intended to find evidence of bad behavior that will later be used to develop an enforcement action and, if everything goes their way, lead to juicy cash penalties. With that in mind, people should be more than a little concerned about the “Prove It Act” currently under Congressional consideration. Here’s how the bill’s supporters describe the legislation:

The Providing Reliable, Objective, Verifiable Emissions Intensity and Transparency (PROVE IT) Act. This bipartisan legislation would direct the Department of Energy (DOE) to conduct a comprehensive study comparing the emissions intensity of certain goods produced in the United States to the emissions of those same goods produced in the other countries. Comprehensive data on product emissions intensity is an important step to addressing climate through trade policy and leveling the playing field for domestic producers and manufacturers who are forced to compete against rivals with little to no standards.

Thanks, Dick Nixon!

If that’s all this study would be used for, that would be fine. Some Republicans and some industry lobbyists seem to believe it. Sponsors say the United States Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers and the American Iron and Steel Institute are supporters.

There is no doubt that American industry produces products far more cleanly, in terms of air pollution, water pollution and carbon emissions, than big competitors in China, India and many other nations. Seems kind of silly to have a study to “prove it,” but government wastes money on far worse causes.

The problem with this bit of chicanery, for chicanery it is in my view, is that it is the logical first step in implementing a carbon tax, the dream of the "climate change" crowd. You can’t tax it, unless you know who has it and how much of it they have.

Students of history will recall that sometime after William the Conqueror defeated King Harold and took the English crown, he commissioned the Domesday Book. This was a comprehensive survey of the kingdom, identifying every person living whether freeman or slave, amount of property held by landowners, and the value of that property. The Book also listed the amount of livestock in private hands and the value of the beasts.

It was the most complete combination census and survey ever made up to that time and there would be few rivals to the title for many a century. The purpose? To figure out who owed King Billy taxes and just how much. If there was a Bureaucrat’s Hall of Fame, William I would surely occupy a prominent place in it.

The Prove It Act sounds a lot more like the Domesday Book of our time than an innocent survey. If we’re going to start taxing those darn carbons, we gotta figure out who’s got the buggers.

In that context, it’s a scheme that invites corruption. Note that they are measuring “carbon intensity” not “carbon emissions” associated with each production process. The latter is relatively easy to measure: ninety-five percent of the time  the operator of most production facilities can look at their fuel bills and calculate their greenhouse gas emissions pretty accurately.

Thanks, William the Bastard!

Carbon intensity is something else again. Carbon intensity includes actual, direct greenhouse gas emissions, but it also includes many more nebulous concepts. It brings in ancillary emissions from transportation, emissions associated with production and delivery of raw materials, and possible carbon sink claims, to name but a few.

The more complex any calculation gets, the fuzzier the final result. Inevitably, Manufacturer A is going to claim that Manufacturer B is unfairly manipulating data, while Manufacturer B will point a finger right back at Manufacturer A. Somebody has to settle that dispute so that the taxes can be assessed. And who do you suppose will be? How about your supposedly “unbiased” government bureaucrat?

Sure some of them will be smart, unbiased and truly try to do a good, fair job. At the same time, some will be idiots, biased as all hell and won’t give a fig about being “fair” so long as they can leave work on time. And that’s just here in the U.S.A. Imagine how much bureaucrats in places like China and Russia will fiddle with the data in exchange for a nice gift.

If Congress expects to pass Prove It, they should explicitly state what exactly “it” is and what “it” isn’t. When it comes to "proving" things, they need to go first.

Rich Trzupek is a chemist and air quality expert who has worked with industry and the EPA for over thirty five years. He is the author of Regulators Gone Wild: How the EPA is Ruining American Industry and other works. He lives in the Chicago area.


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2 comments on “Is 'PROVE IT' Just an Act?”

  1. Strand Greenpeace in the Far North their ship Rainbow Warrior II trapped in the Ice they claim were losing

  2. Suppose you are a powerful king during the late Bronze Age (c. 1500 BC) and your top two advisers bring you the bad news that your kingdom is heavily in debt to other empires that stand to acquire your land, your treasure, and ultimately the allegiance of your subjects. The first adviser recommends that you cut crown expenditures and increase taxes to escape the chains of indebtedness, but you reject that approach for political considerations. The second adviser is more crafty. He tells you to force all the peoples in all the lands under your control to stop using bronze—the basis of the currency in which your debt is held—and instead switch to iron. Once everyone switches to iron (a superior metal) , the debt based on bronze is devalued and the king and his barons can escape their lenders and retain their power without risking political unrest or sacrificing crown luxuries. Moreover, the king’s treasury will be filled with a bounty based upon the value of iron, all of which is under the king’s control.
    Now, fast-forward 3500 years and replace the bronze standard with the petrodollar. Except, “renewable” energy is not a superior substitute for petroleum in the way that iron was for bronze, therefore today’s subjects are unwilling to accept such an obvious personal sacrifice. So today’s kings are now taking a second look at the first adviser’s approach—a carbon or petroleum tax—that has been on the table for years but previously rejected for political reasons (see former SOS James Baker, et al). With the collapse of the green fraud’s strategic goal to devalue western welfare-state petrodollar indebtedness, witness now the shell game in which powerful people push for tax increases that are hidden, disguised, and most importantly, regressed.
    “The strong do what they can; the weak suffer what they must”

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