Apparently the reality that America’s economic output declined by 1 percent in the first quarter, retail and home sales are plummeting, and a record-setting 1 in 8 (or 10 million) American men in their prime working years between ages 25–54 aren’t working or looking for work will be no impediment for a president determined to impose a radical environmentalist agenda on the nation. On Monday, the Obama administration announced the first-of-their-kind national limits on carbon emissions from the nation’s more than 600 coal-fired power plants. The proposed regulation, implemented by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), will demand a 30 percent cut in emissions by 2030.
At a Feb. 11, 2014 hearing of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations related to the status of clean coal programs, Rep. Tim Murphy (R-PA) spelled out the real-world consequences of such a plan, explaining that Americans could expect an increase in electricity costs ranging from 40 percent at a coal gasification facility, to as much as 80 percent at a pulverized coal power plant, according to the Department of Energy’s own documentation. The reliably leftist New York Times illuminates the implications, noting that the regulations could lead to the closing of “hundreds” of such facilities.
Unsurprisingly, the effort completely bypasses Congress, undoubtedly because it would be as DOA as it was when the Democratically-controlled legislative branch failed to pass such cap-and-trade legislation in 2010. Thus our constitutionally-comtemptuous president has rendered members of Congress superfluous, even as the EPA becomes their de facto replacement.
The administration offers a degree of flexibility in achieving these goals. They include allowing states to reduce emissions by installing solar, wind or other energy-efficiency technology, and by creating or joining cap-and-trade programs at the state or regional level that allow such entities to cap emissions, and then buy and sell permits that allow plants to continue to emit greenhouse gases—as long as they pay a suitable fee for doing so. That fee that will inevitably be passed down to consumers. Yet in keeping with the administration’s imperialist impulses, if such state- or regionally-imposed rules do not satisfy the EPA’s guidelines the agency will act unilaterally to force such entities into compliance.
Those affected are planning to sue. “Clearly, it is designed to materially damage the ability of conventional energy sources to provide reliable and affordable power, which in turn can inflict serious damage on everything from household budgets to industrial jobs,” said Scott Segal, a lawyer with Bracewell & Giuliani, a firm representing coal companies in anticipated litigation. Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt also plans to challenge the regulations in court. “The Clean Air Act clearly sets out a role for EPA to suggest guidelines, while granting states authority to develop and implement specific proposals to achieve the goals of the Clean Air Act,” he told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “Should the EPA’s proposed regulation force states to adopt a ‘cap and trade’ scheme or any other specific proposal, it would violate the law and likely be challenged in court.”
Such challenges, as well as litigation anticipated by other industry groups and other states such as West Virginia, North Dakota, Alaska and Texas revolve around the EPA’s use of a little-used section of the Clean Air Act to create its new regulations. The implementation of section 111 (d) of the Act is necessitated by the reality that carbon dioxide isn’t regulated under major Clean Air Act programs that address air pollutants. The EPA claims it has used that section to previously regulate five sources of air pollutants, but none of those approach the magnitude of their attempt to regulate carbon dioxide.
As the Wall Street Journal explains, the relatively rare instances in which section 111 (d) has been invoked, creates the “unusual circumstance in which potential challengers to the carbon rules would be litigating largely on a blank slate against the EPA,” thus testing “how far a president can go in using the long-standing air-pollution law to try to address climate change.” The paper further notes that such a blank slate accrues to the EPA’s advantage, because courts generally give deference to administrative agencies, provided they are not imposing regulations in an “arbitrary and capricious manner.”
Moreover, the courts have an already-established track record of siding with the EPA. Recent decisions include the Supreme Court’s ruling last month that allowed the EPA to curb power-plant emissions blowing across state lines, while appeals courts have upheld the right of the EPA to regulate mercury emissions from power plants, rules on auto emissions, and the agency’s 2009 contention that CO2 and other greenhouse gases posed a threat to public health. Washington environmental lawyer Sean Donahue spelled out the implications. “There’s more room to make legal arguments because the courts haven’t specified what the statute means and doesn’t mean, but it also leaves more room for the agency’s judgment,” he explained.
It is a judgement completely aligned with global warming alarmism, irrespective of two realities. First, even if one buys the notion of global warming, the key word is “global.” According to the International Energy Agency, by 2012 the United States had cut CO2 emissions more than any nation on earth since 2006, due in large part to the already occurring shift from coal to gas in the nation’s power sector. The world’s leading polluter is now China, which emitted 9.0 billion tons in 2012, compared to only 5.3 billion metric tons released by the U.S. By 2020 that total is expected to top 11.5 billion metric tons, while we remain flat, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.
Moreover, China and India will be constructing three-quarters of the 1,200 coal-fired plants being proposed globally, according to the World Resources Institute in Washington. As Robert Stavins, director of Harvard University’s Environmental Economics Program explained to Bloomberg News, even if America reduced its carbon emissions to zero, “global emissions would continue to increase. So, the direct impacts of the new power plant rules on atmospheric greenhouse-gas concentrations will be small.”
The reasons for the increases are blindingly obvious: underdeveloped nations wish to raise their standard of living, and no amount of hectoring by the nation with one of the highest standard of living on the planet is likely to alter those ambitions in any substantial way. Nonetheless the administration remains tethered to the notion that cutting emissions will give American climate change negotiators a stronger hand at the United Nations General Assembly next fall, when governments engage in the attempt to hammer out a worldwide treaty by 2015. “I fully expect action by the United States to spur others in taking concrete action,” said Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the United Nations Framework on Climate Change.
In the meantime, such “concrete action” by the United States will do serious damage to an already damaged economy. “The administration has set out to kill coal and its 800,000 jobs,” Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY) said in the GOP weekly address Saturday. “If it succeeds in death by regulation, we’ll all be paying a lot more money for electricity — if we can get it.” The Chamber of Commerce contends the new regulations will cost the economy $50 billion per year, and the loss of 3.5 million jobs over 15 years, while the National Center for Public Policy Research asserts that they will “disproportionately hurt lower income people and minorities.”
The EPA counters that the cost will be “only” $8.8 billion annually in 2030, but “will lead to climate and health benefits worth an estimated $55 billion to $93 billion per year in 2030.” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney dismissed the jobs losses as a “doomsday scenario,” and EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy claimed the nation will need “thousands of American workers in construction, transmission and more to make cleaner power a reality.” President Obama asserted that carbon-dioxide emissions—which humans exhale with every breath–are a national health crisis. “We don’t have to choose between the health of our economy and the health of our children,” Obama said in his weekly address Saturday. “As president and as a parent, I refuse to condemn our children to a planet that’s beyond fixing.”
So who’s right? As always, progressives ignore real world evidence that doesn’t accrue to their agenda. In Spain 2.2 jobs were destroyed for every green job created. In Italy, the capital needed to create one green job could create five in the general economy. In Denmark, the commitment to wind power generated the highest electricity rates in the EU. And in Germany, the green energy job creation myth is currently collapsing, as seven-out-of-ten green jobs will be lost without continuing government subsidies. Oliver Krischer, deputy leader of the Greens in the Bundestag, acknowledged inconvenient reality. “A few years ago the renewable sector was the job miracle in Germany, now nothing is left of all of that,” he conceded.
Nothing is a relative term, and the real agenda here may be a familiar one: the Obama administration’s desire to have government determine the nation’s “winners” and “losers” by executive fiat. “Given the facts, we must consider the possibility that this is not about global warming at all but is instead simply another tax, and a relatively large one, that will be used to underwrite favors for Democratic interest groups while creating corporate subsidies for politically connected businesses — namely, those liberal financiers who have large financial positions in so-called clean-energy technologies and stand to make a hefty profit from government mandates for renewables,” writes the editors of the National Review. “Come for the feel-good greenwashing, stay for the corporate welfare.”
The EPA plan is slated to go into effect in June 2016, following a one-year comment period—and a likely plethora of lawsuits. In the meantime, Americans already beset by the weakest recovery since the Great Depression can anticipate what they will shortly endure as the result of what the Times characterizes as Obama’s “legacy-making global deal.” America’s legacy, which now includes the reality that the middle class may be headed for extinction, is somehow lost in the mix. For progressives, destroying the economy is a small price to pay for “saving the planet.”
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