There are decent arguments and there are silly arguments. When it comes to the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives, you get a steady dose of both.

For the last two weeks the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to regulate greenhouse gases has been the target of increased fire from Republicans. The arguments for undermining the agency’s authority are always fun to watch. Often they come down to an assault on science, reason and facts. But I will give one representative some credit, as this week he at least appeared to have a reasoned argument for unreasonably hamstringing the EPA.

Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) is the chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior and the Environment. During a debate on the House floor this week, Simpson seemed downright reasonable when exchanging assaults on the EPA with Energy and Power Subcommittee Chairman Ed Whitfield (R-Ken.).

“It is not even necessary to be a climate change skeptic to be an EPA GHG regulation skeptic,” said Simpson referring to the acronym for greenhouse gases. He went on: “EPA can only regulate American companies, and we know that China already emits more carbon dioxide than we do, its rate of emissions growth is many times faster than ours, and the Chinese government has repeatedly made clear that they will never impose such job-destroying regulatory measures on themselves. Even [EPA] Administrator Lisa Jackson has conceded that unilateral action would have a negligible impact on future temperatures,” said Simpson.

I don’t agree with Simpson, but I do give him credit for outlining what was a huge problem for the environmental movement prior to Climategate: China. The Chinese argument, and the Indian argument and the argument that, “if they aren’t going to do anything then why should we?” is a claim that is based on fact and is difficult to overcome. This was the debate before the assault on science, and climatologists began to seriously resonate in Copenhagen in 2009. It lives on today. But Simpson brought me back to the good old days of debate on climate, before things were crazy.

Now this isn’t to say that Simpson is a bastion of reason and good sense on EPA regulation. Hardly. And while he appears reasonable when juxtaposed next to someone like Rep. Whitfield, it is only fair to point out that Simpson’s campaign took a whopping $121,900 from the energy and natural resource sector. The electric utilities industry has given Simpson’s campaign committee more than $50,000 while the oil and gas sector has contributed another $25,000 for the Idaho Republican to represent their second congressional district. So, perhaps his reasoned tone on the House floor was less about common sense and more about finding old ways to placate current funders.

It goes to show that you can appear reasonable while pushing for unreasonable policies. It’s just easier to do so when the company you keep appears a bit wacky.

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