The big winner in last night’s GOP presidential debate was, of course, none of the above.  The big loser was the planet we inhabit with those knuckleheads. Not surprisingly, the all-Fox panel of interrogators didn’t pose a single question about the environment.  And, with one exception, none of the candidates had anything to say about the subject.

The exception was Jon Huntsman, the whiny and lethargic former governor of Utah and Obama ambassador to China, who referred…not once but twice…to an “EPA reign of terror.” Mr. Huntsman didn’t offer any specifics, but made it clear that the one of the major obstacles standing between our country and longterm economic prosperity is the pollution agency’s heavy-handed, soul-destroying, business-drowning regulatory oversight of…well, again, he didn’t really say. But let’s give him full marks for going all in.

Apparently, it’s republican gospel that a healthy economy is fundamentally incompatible with clean air and water, inconsistent with the careful licensing of pesticides, and forever at odds with any attempt to limit the production of greenhouse gases that have already set in motion catastrophic climate change. Well, it’s their religion and they are welcome to it.

But put me down as doubtful that EPA actions can be fairly called a “reign of terror.” Just over four decades old…the EPA was established by President Nixon in 1970 after his administration conducted a lengthy review of federal policy on environmental matters…the agency has a checkered history. In the early days it aggressively cancelled a number of dangerous pesticides. But eventually the chemical companies…who are responsible for the safety testing of their own products…learned how to game the system. Potentially dangerous products can remain on the market for years as the EPA reviews study after study.  And the agency now confronts a whole new category of safety concerns over compounds that mimic or interfere with hormones. The EPA has developed new assays for such effects, but it has been slow going and will likely remain so.

As for the idea that the agency will one day begin to regulate greenhouse gases…we’ll have to be patient. Very patient. Republicans in congress have proposed legislation to block any such regulation…again operating on an article of faith that global warming is either a hoax or something that would cost too much to do anything about.

So if you have a concern for good old planet Earth, President Obama must be your man. Because unlike the republicans, he is deeply committed to protecting the environment. Just look at everything he’s done for it during his first term. You have to look hard, I’ll admit. Okay, really really hard. You’ve gotta try. Go ahead. Try.