Skip to main content

ICYMI: Killing Coal


Last week President Obama’s EPA proposed new greenhouse gas standards for power plants. It’s the latest in a series of rigid rules that are reshaping our nation’s energy policy under the guise of environmental regulation, driving up costs and destroying jobs. While the EPA argues this new rule will have no economic impact, common sense dictates otherwise when we are foreclosing the use of one of the most abundant and affordable electricity sources. As an editorial in today’s Wall Street Journal points out, the rule simply assumes no new coal-fired power plants will be built. EPA has designed the standards to be uncommercially achievable so that it will be virtually impossible to construct new coal-based power generation in this country. In addition, EPA has proposed a suite of other new rules on America’s power sector that are designed to accelerate closures of existing coal plants. Energy and Commerce Committee members came out strongly against this latest attack on affordable electricity by the administration. As the editorial suggests, EPA’s plan to kill coal lies in direct contrast to President Obama’s so-called “all of the above” energy strategy.

Killing Coal
So much for an ‘all of the above’ energy strategy.
The Wall…Street Journal
April 5, 2012

For three years the Environmental Protection Agency has imposed a de facto ban on new coal-fired power while doing everything it can to harm existing coal plants. But for once there’s something good to say about the latest EPA carbon rule: At least the agency was less devious when it formalized the coal ban last week.

The EPA proposed what are known as “new source performance standards” for carbon under the Clean Air Act, which are part of the agency’s “endangerment finding” to limit greenhouse gas emissions. To control CO2, utilities will need to install new technology, such as capture-and-sequestration systems that are among the world’s most complex and expensive industrial equipment.

But great news: The EPA estimates that the total cost of this rule will be $0. It will have no major effect on the economy. Not a single job will be lost.

How can that be? In its cost estimates, the EPA assumes the U.S. will never complete another coal-fired project. Ever. The agency is conceding that coal development has been shut down as a result of its many new regulations, such as the recent mercury rule and the illegal permitting delays that a federal appeals court slapped down last week.

But there’s also a problem. Because the putative “regulatory impact” is zero, there are also no benefits. So why is the environmental lobby applauding the EPA’s new rule like a performing seal? Even the EPA itself says the performance standards will apply only to new plants, not the legacy fleet that generates almost half of U.S. electricity. The media were careful to repeat this claim too.

It isn’t true. Just as the new rule’s fine print reveals that the rules won’t apply to the new plants because they’ll never be built, it also shows that the rules will put old plants at risk because of another EPA program known as New Source Review…

Everyone in Washington including President Obama claims to favor an “all of the above” energy portfolio. As misguided as that is—far better to let markets decide which energy sources to develop—the EPA has now admitted that Mr. Obama doesn’t really mean it. Coal is not part of his “all.” Voters in swing coal states such as Ohio and West Virginia probably do care about that.

Read the full article online here.