Unfortunately, that was the president of Australia, not the president of the United States. President Tony Abbott from Down Under appears to understand that climate change is not the only danger we face; so too are dumb measures to address it.
Measures like the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) climate rule for power plants that the White House unleashed on coal states last month. This rule is all pain and no gain. If implemented as proposed — which is virtually a foregone conclusion despite the cosmetic attempts at “listening” to critics — the EPA will burden households and industries in heavily reliant coal states with costlier electricity in exchange for no significant health or environmental benefits.
Look at the numbers, starting with the cost side of the ledger. The EPA’s administrator herself admits utility bills will go up. Others who actually know something about the economy estimate power costs could rise sharply in coming years as the EPA kills the lowest cost power generation and replaces it with more expensive sources.
How high prices will rise is tough to estimate because of the bewildering complexity of the rule that states are expected to implement. Economists at IHS International ignored the EPA’s fairy tale estimates of cost savings expected from increased energy efficiency to put annual economic losses at about $50 billion and annual job losses at 224,000 as higher electricity prices steal throughout the economy and slowly stifle growth. Other studies, examining a similar carbon reduction plan for power plants, put the probable costs much higher. But you get the picture.
On the “benefit” side, we learn what the country is buying with this pricey plan. First, the White House claimed health benefits from lower asthma rates, better respiratory conditions, etc. Only few of these health benefits come from this rule; they’ve already been claimed by the EPA for its 2010 air toxics rule. We call that double counting; you may call it dishonest. The EPA calls it science.
The EPA has to cheat on the health benefits because it offers no meaningful environmental benefits. “How’s that?” you ask innocently. What about global CO2 reductions? There aren’t any. Despite the breast beating announcement from the White House last month claiming the U.S. was now leading the global fight against warming, it turns out we’re only leading the world in talking about it. The EPA’s rule provides no significant reduction in CO2 concentrations. Even a complete shut-down of U.S. coal plants would drop average global temperatures by only about 1/20th of 1˚F. The administration’s plan to reduce U.S. emissions by 25% would obviously drop temperatures even less, at most by 1/80th of 1˚. For this, the White House does an end zone dance, weakens grid reliability, employment and economic growth.
Over the past decade, while the U.S. has actually reduced or stabilized its greenhouse gas emissions, China and India are discharging into the atmosphere staggering volumes of gas from
the biggest industrial revolution in history. Are they now going to change course and renounce higher living standards just because the U.S. has? Unlikely. Developing countries have repeatedly rejected carbon regimes that would slow their economies and cost jobs.
Of course, so too have the American people; Congress has steadfastly opposed the very cap-and-trade schemes the EPA is now foisting onto the states. Only this White House cares no more about what ordinary Americans think than Beijing’s leaders care what ordinary Chinese think.
The difference is, we have elections. And you can bet your carbon credits that senate candidates this November will care about what coal state voters think even if the White House doesn’t. Candidates will see what NMA’s poll found in June: coal state voters don’t support this rule and won’t support candidates who do.
This could be the dumbest as well as the costliest regulation in history. There’s a legacy.
Luke Popovich is a spokesperson for the National Mining Association, the industry’s trade group based in Washington, D.C.