Let’s start by acknowledging there are always discrepancies between policy aspirations and achievements. Well-intentioned plans often fail expectations, particularly when goals are ambitious.
But that is not what is at issue here. The discrepancy between the administration’s stated plan to develop “all” of our domestic energy sources and its actions to accomplish this goal do not suggest the plan has failed. That’s because the plan is not intended to be taken seriously in the first place. What it more clearly suggests is how politicized its energy policy has become.
There can be no other conclusion after reviewing the gap between the word and the deed. The administration presides over a country with the world’s largest supply of coal—an energy source that has long served as the backbone of our nation’s electricity generation—yet fails to even cite coal in its major energy addresses or include coal among vital energy sources listed on the president’s campaign website.
While this silence is clearly audible, the administration’s actions speak even louder. Its regulatory agencies relentlessly pursue costly and burdensome constraints on coal production and use. They employ interpretations of the Clean Water Act rejected by federal courts to stop mining, and they employ the most costly and least flexible policies designed to drive coal out of the electricity market. The recent rules imposed on power plants are not intended to improve environmental performance but to force closure of generating capacity.
In this, at least, they are succeeding far better than the EPA expected. The agency said to expect no more than 9.7 gigawatts forced into retirement. But utilities have already announced capacity retirements that altogether generate five times the amount of electricity the agency predicted would be lost.
The regulatory ax the administration has swung at coal-based generation has also damaged prospects for making coal cleaner by impairing development of the next generation of coal technologies. Far from promoting advanced coal technologies in electricity generation, the administration’s “new source” standards require carbon capture and storage, a technology that will not be commercially viable for at least a decade. In the meantime, the nation forgoes the environmental and economic dividends offered by supercritical and ultra-supercritical coal plants—plants that would reduce emissions today and be the optimal candidates for carbon capture technology when that technology is fully demonstrated as violable.
Even nuclear energy gets short shrift. Currently our nuclear power plant fleet receives less than 10% of its uranium from domestic sources despite uranium’s abundance here. Earlier this year, the administration closed off from development more than 1 million acres of land containing some of the nation’s most promising domestic uranium resources. The decision lacked any scientific basis; the administration’s own environmental impact analysis concluded that uranium production posed no significant impacts to the environment.
The administration’s “All of the Above” energy plan is neither a serious policy objective nor sincerely pursued. It is a political catch phrase without the BTUs to back it up.