States Can Stop EPA’s War on Coal
By James Simpson – BarbWire guest columnist
This weekend the Obama administration announced a trade for the release of Army Specialist Bowe Bergdahl, offering in exchange the five most deadly Taliban terrorists incarcerated at Guantanamo Bay. This was an illegal act. The president is required by law to inform Congress 30 days before making such a decision. He did not do so, and the White House admitted it. Obama claims a signing statement made at the time this law was passed gave him a right to ignore aspects of it when he saw fit.
Similarly, on Monday the administration violated the law by announcing stringent carbon dioxide emission targets for power plants that will effectively kill the coal industry. The new regulation calls for a 30 percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions from power plants by 2030. Congress failed to pass so-called “cap and trade” legislation that would enable such a move, so Obama is using the regulatory authority he claims the EPA already has to regulate carbon. But the president cannot just ignore the will of Congress. To do so assumes that Congress is irrelevant. Apparently this is what President Obama believes.
President Obama’s Organizing for America website brags that the new EPA regulations are “the strongest action ever taken by an American president to tackle climate change.” Most media outlets are echoing Obama, heralding the new EPA rule, while downplaying or ignoring the calamitous effects it will have on the economy. CBS called it “groundbreaking.” The Christian Science Monitor calls it “bold, signature, and controversial.” CNN called it “the boldest step yet,” characterizing prior U.S. positions as “hypocritical.”
ABC News cited a new poll claiming that 70 percent of Americans think something should be done about global warming. This, of course, follows numerous polls that indicate just the opposite. A Gallup poll published in The Washington Post last year indicated that most people do not consider global warming a serious threat. An ABC poll found only 18 percent ranked global warming as their highest priority. Sixty-eight percent of respondents ranked the economy as the number one priority. A Pew poll found only 42 percent believed global warming to be caused primarily by human activity.
Media outlets dismissed concerns over the rule’s impact on the economy, but it will have devastating effects. Called the “Obamacare for climate change,” the EPA rule claims huge savings down the road, but, as President Obama put it, this “will require tough choices along the way.” Tough indeed. It will raise energy costs nationwide at a time when our economy struggles to recover from the deepest recession since the Great Depression. A recent study projects the damages:
- Average annual $51 billion reduction to U.S. Gross Domestic Product through 2030
- An average 224,000 fewer U.S. jobs every year through 2030
- U.S. consumers will pay $289 billion more for electricity through 2030
- Lower total disposable income for U.S. households by $586 billion through 2030
And just as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) claims Obamacare’s unstated but overt goal is to destroy the private healthcare market, this new EPA rule is ultimately designed to destroy the coal industry.
Some states have already vowed to fight against these regulations. Indiana Governor Mike Pence (R) said, “Indiana will oppose these regulations using every means available.” Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett (R) promised to “fight these regulations every step of the way.” Many other U.S senators and representatives have expressed similar sentiments. West Virginia and Wyoming are considering legislation to block the regulations. As Wyoming Senator John Barrasso (R) noted, “The costs are real, the benefits are theoretical.” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) called it “a dagger in the heart of the American middle class.”
Facing tough reelection campaigns in coal states, many Democratic politicians have also broken ranks to voice their opposition. Rep. Nick Rahall (D-WV) called the new rules “disastrous.” Democratic West Virginia U.S. Senate candidate Natalie Tenannt stated, “I will stand up to President Obama, Gina McCarthy and anyone else who tries to undermine our coal jobs…” Running against incumbent Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Democratic candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes promised, “I will fiercely oppose the President’s attack on Kentucky’s coal industry because protecting our jobs will be my number one priority.”
Lawsuits and legislation may ultimately prevent this regulation from going forward; however, state and local governments have a simpler and more effective tool at their fingertips: “coordination.” Coordination is a little-known feature embedded in numerous environmental laws, including the National Environmental Policy Act, the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Environmental Quality Improvement Act of 1970, the Endangered Species Act and other laws.
Coordination requires the EPA and all other federal agenciesto consider all effects of environmental regulations. These effects include:
ecological (such as the effects on natural resources and on the components, structures, and functioning of affected ecosystems), aesthetic, historic, cultural, economic, social, or health, whether direct, indirect, or cumulative. Effects may also include those resulting from actions which may have both beneficial and detrimental effects, even if on balance the agency believes that the effect will be beneficial. (emphasis added).
The federal agency must prepare an “environmental impact” statement that includes impacts on the human environment. This refers specifically to all those aspects listed above. According to the law, “‘Human environment’ shall be interpreted comprehensively to include the natural and physical environment and the relationship of people with that environment.” The agency is only exempt if the proposed regulation has “no significant impact.”
Since these new carbon regulations will have a devastating effect on multiple aspects of the human environment, the EPA cannot unilaterally apply them as proposed. The EPA must negotiate with state and local governments—they only have to ask. Not only will conventional energy sources be gravely weakened, but our nation will be set on a course to use more and more solar, wind and other exotic power generation. These are three to four times more expensive than traditional energy, and will send residential electricity rates through the roof. If you recall, candidate Obama promised this very thing back in 2008, saying that “electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket.” Obama added, “So, if somebody wants to build a coal plant, they can—it’s just that it will bankrupt them, because they are going to be charged a huge sum for all that greenhouse gas that’s being emitted.”
Solar and wind facilities require huge amounts of space to generate even tiny amounts of electricity. For example, the Ivanpah solar farm in southern California provides 1.1 percent of California’s residential energy needs, but requires five square miles of ground. And every bit of those five square miles is filled with moving, tilting mirrors that follow the sun. High maintenance costs are assured. A solar farm scaled up to serve all California homes—never mind industry—would require 500 square miles, an area almost half the size of Rhode Island.
Both solar and wind are deadly to the environment. For environmental purposes, the Ivanpah land essentially becomes a five square mile parking lot. Focusing the sun’s rays on a single point as this facility does raises the temperature near the central tower as high as 1,000 degrees F, incinerating any birds that fly through. The Bundy Ranch showdown came about because multiple solar energy farms are planned for Clark County, Nevada, and land surrounding the ranch property is intended for “mitigation,” i.e., to replace habitat for the endangered desert tortoise destroyed by solar facilities.
Modern wind turbines slaughter more birds than Perdue. At California’s Altamont Pass Wind Resource Area, one of the first major wind generation facilities constructed in the U.S., the Audubon Society estimates that 4,700 birds die annually, including 75 to 110 Golden Eagles, 380 Burrowing Owls, 300 Red-tailed Hawks and 333 American Kestrels. According to Smithsonian.com, nationwide, wind turbines kill between 140,000 and 328,000 birds every year.
Solar and wind energy projects cannot survive on their own, requiring massive, unsustainable government subsidies to make them economically viable. Across the United States, 15,000 wind turbines already stand abandoned, and throughout Europe wind and solar energy are being reconsidered as problems mount and governments abandon the subsidies. In Spain, one study found that renewable energy jobs cost about 571,000 Euros, or more than $776,000 each. At the same time, for each renewable energy job generated, the economy lost 2.2 jobs elsewhere. Wind generation has failed in Denmark, Spain, Greece, Portugal and elsewhere. Stephan Kohler, Germany’s energy chief says that conventional power plants will be necessary until at least 2050 and calls Germany’s Renewable Energy Act “pure insanity.”
Fleecing the Taxpayers
While Obama, the Democrats and some Republicans have raised the specter of catastrophic global warming, the real “green” they seek is greenbacks. Even a cursory look into the backers of “green energy” projects reveals a who’s who of the Democratic Left. Everyone from Al Gore, to Bill Clinton to Barack Obama and their many friends, associates and supporters have all lined up to cash in on “green” energy. The idea is to use government subsidies to make the investments viable. As long as subsidies persist, the companies make money. But this can’t last forever. Government subsidies must eventually end, as they are doing now in Europe and already did at many locations in the U.S. But by the time this happens, investors have long since cashed out, leaving taxpayers holding the bag. The EPA rule, however, envisions an entirely new paradigm. Instead of subsidizing these green energy firms, the Obama administration intends to simply destroy the competition.
James Simpson is an economist, former White House budget analyst, businessman and investigative journalist. His articles have been published at American Thinker, Accuracy in Media, Breitbart, Washington Times, WorldNetDaily, and others. His regular column is DC Independent Examiner. Follow Jim on Twitter & Facebook.
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