Whole Foods Market

John Mackey, co-founder and CEO of Whole Foods Market, really made a name for himself when his op-ed, “The Whole Foods Alternative to ObamaCare“, ran in the Wall Street Journal last summer. In the latest issue of the New Yorker, Nick Paumgarten profiles Mackey and his ideas of “conscious capitalism.” When asked what Mackey was reading,

One of the books on the list was “Heaven and Earth: Global Warming—the Missing Science,” a skeptical take on climate change. Mackey told me that he agrees with the book’s assertion that, as he put it, “no scientific consensus exists” regarding the causes of climate change; he added, with a candor you could call bold or reckless, that it would be a pity to allow “hysteria about global warming” to cause us “to raise taxes and increase regulation, and in turn lower our standard of living and lead to an increase in poverty.” One would imagine that, on this score, many of his customers, to say nothing of most climate scientists, might disagree. He also said, “Historically, prosperity tends to correlate to warmer temperatures.”

Coincidentally, in a new survey of small and independent business owners by the National Federation of Independent Business found that while the single largest problem that small business owners said they faced was poor sales, the second and third largest were taxes and regulation, respectively. The prospects for cap and trade legislation, a historic new tax on energy if enacted, are in question but certainly not out of the question. More alarming for businesses should be the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issuing an endangerment finding that says greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide, are a threat to human health and the environment.

For any business, the EPA’s decision spells unprecedented top down regulation that will undoubtedly slow economic growth. One White House official recently said of the way EPA will regulate: “[I]t is not going to be able to regulate on a market-based way, so it’s going to have to regulate in a command-and-control way, which will probably generate even more uncertainty.”

The way the Clean Air Act is written small businesses and just about everything that emits carbon dioxide, including your lawnmower, could be regulated. But to prevent this, the EPA writes “>proposed a tailoring rule to change the threshold from 250 tons to 25,000 tons as a means to provide “regulatory relief for smaller GHG emission sources and for permitting authorities.” But small businesses aren’t off the hook yet writes the Wall Street Journal’s Kim Strassel:

This is where green groups come in. The tailoring rule “invites suits,” says Sen. John Barrasso (R., Wyo.), who has emerged as a top Senate watchdog of EPA actions. Talk of business litigation aside, Mr. Barrasso sees “most of the lawsuits coming from the environmental groups” who want to force the EPA to regulate everything. The agency is going to get hit from all directions. Even if these outsiders don’t win their suits, they have the ability to twist up the regulations for a while.”

As Mackey warns, the higher energy prices, compliance costs of new regulations, and the litigation nightmares will lower our standard of living. One thing he forgot to mention is that these new energy taxes and regulations won’t do anything to reduce the earth’s temperature and reducing our economic prosperity cripples our ability to tackle real environmental problems.