The June roll out of the White House executive action to cut power plant emissions has been met by support from environmental and kindred political groups. The nation’s 600 Coal-fired plants are the biggest target. If fully enacted, according to a Bloomberg report, coal’s share of energy generation would be reduced from 40% to 14%. The executive action is a follow-up to the White House’s climate change strategy released in June 2013, which called for power plant emissions controls, electrical grid upgrades, carbon capture technology development, periodic reviews of energy matters, and methane and hydrofluorocarbon reductions.
The executive action follows a 2009 pledge by President Obama to cut domestic greenhouse gas by 17% from 2005 levels by 2020, and over 80% by mid-century. It would institute the controversial “cap and trade” concept, which requires emissions producers to obtain “carbon permits” to operate.
The executive action was based on findings summarized in the Environmental Protection Agency’s study, “Climate Change Indicators in the United States,” which concluded that human-caused climate change has already occurred and is producing harmful effects on the environment. Critics maintain the study ignored contrary evidence.
Carbonbrief.org describes the executive action succinctly:
“The plan aims to cut the emissions of the US power sector 30 per cent on 2005 levels over the next sixteen years. It is open for comment for 120 days and the EPA aims to have final rules in force by June 2015.
“Each state in the US will be set their own target for emissions per megawatt hour of electricity produced. States will have until 30 June 2016 to submit plans explaining how they will meet this target. The EPA says it might allow states to plead for up to two years’ extra time.
“The proposal covers emissions from 1,600 existing coal and gas-fired power stations across the US. Regulations limiting emissions from new power stations are already in the pipeline…There is no legal precedent for it to use the Clean Air Act in this way. The Ohio attorney general has pledged to challenge the EPA’s plans. Legal opinions differ on the EPA’s authority.”
The Institute for 21st Century Energy notes that “fossil-fuel fired power stations comprise almost 76% of the generating capacity and nearly 66% of the electricity generated in the United States.”
CAN THE EPA DO THIS?
The EPA bases its authority to engage in this action by virtue of presidential executive action, using the Clean Air Act (CAA) section 111(d). There is significant controversy over the constitutionality of the move. Mr. Obama failed to win Congressional approval for climate change legislation in his first term, and opponents will claim with substantial validity that he lacks the authority to enact his current program without Congressional approval.
In its June 23 decision in the case of Utility Air Regulatory Group v. Environmental Protection Agency, The U.S. Supreme Court gave a mixed ruling to the legality of the measure. The Scotus blog summarized the decision:
The Clean Air Act either compels nor permits the Environmental Protection Agency to adopt an interpretation of the Clean Air Act requiring a stationary source of pollution to obtain a ‘Prevention of Significant Deterioration’ or Title V permit on the sole basis of its potential greenhouse-gas emission. However, EPA reasonably interpreted the Clean Air Act to require sources that would need permits based on their emission of chemical pollutants to comply with “best available control technology” for greenhouse gases.”
The President’s program has encountered broad based opposition from scientific, legal, financial, industrial, and consumer interests. Manufacturers and oil refineries would also be hit hard. Consumers would face significant price increases. Critics maintain that the technology to comply with the new regulations remains unproven.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce (see below) believes that the program, despite the heavy cost, will produce only a 1.8% reduction in emissions.
International strategic implications would be broad. The U.S. has a vast supply of coal, (Kentucky, for example, fills almost all of its energy needs from coal) and essentially making it unaffordable would render the U.S. and its allies more dependent on international energy supply producers, such as Russia and middle eastern nations, that are hostile to the west.
Nor are international implications being considered by. Moscow funds its vast military buildup through its energy sales; taking U.S. coal off line will increase the Kremlin’s profits and provide greater assets to spend on its already massive armed forces. Europe will be more dependent than ever on Putin.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce analysis reports that the program would: “Lower U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by $51 billion on average every year through 2030; Lead to 224,000 fewer U.S. jobs on average every year through 2030; Force U.S. consumers to pay $289 billion more for electricity through 2030; Lower total disposable income for U.S. households by $586 billion through 2030.”
The Institute for 21st Century Energy believes that under the executive action “consumers would pay nearly $290 billion more for electricity between 2014 and 2030.” The Institute notes that “over $50 billion in lost investments every year between now and 2030…U.S. households could lose $585 billion by 2030…electrical costs would increase by $289 billion by 2030…224,000 more people could lose their jobs every year between 2014—2030…increased compliance cost [would be] $480 billion.”
Also Opposing the President’s proposals are numerous scientists who note that their research and findings, (which are contrary to the conclusions espoused by supporters of the human effect on the global temperature theory) have been wholly ignored. They are joined by those concerned that what they describe as faulty or incomplete evidence being employed to use allegations of human-caused global warming as an excuse to enhance governmental authority, establish a more centralized economy, and enrich special interests.
Critics also maintain that the executive action could substantially and detrimentally impact the American economy and the cost of energy. Major geopolitical implications will result as non-U.S. providers of energy sources, such as Russia, Venezuela, Iran, and others benefit from it.
On June 26, Rep. Randy Forbes issued the following statement:
“I am co-sponsoring the Protection and Accountability Rgulatory Act, H.R. 4812. This bill does two important things: [it] nullifies these EPA rules on emissions from power plants, [and] prohibits the EPA from issuing anything similar unless specifically authorized to do so by Congress. I also cosponsored the REINS Act (H.R. 367) : which requires Congressional approval for regulations that cost over $100 million. It’s just common sense that we ought to have more than unelected bureaucrats writing rules that the businesses in our communities have to follow.”
On June 16, the governors of Alaska, Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Texas and Wyoming submitted the following letter to the White House, which summarized many of the policy arguments against the program:
“As Governors leading diverse States that both produce and consume energy, we ask that you pursue a pragmatic energy policy that balances our nation’s economic needs, energy security, and environmental quality objectives.
“As you know, the energy industry is a major source of job creation in our country, providing employment to millions of our citizens and bolstering U.S. economic competitiveness. America was able to meet almost 90 percent of its energy needs last year the most since March 1985 in large part because of increased domestic energy production. We take pride in the fact that domestic production largely powers America and increasingly other economies as well, helping to eradicate poverty and to provide political stability around the globe.
“Development of our resources has put more money in the pockets of working families and has helped the poor and elderly on fixed incomes, who can now more easily afford to run their air conditioning in the heat of the summer. For example, American natural gas production is reducing average retail electricity prices by 10 percent, saving households, on average, nearly $1,000 per year between 2012 and 2015.
“This significant accomplishment of increased U.S. energy independence, with its associated economic and health benefits, has been achieved largely by State policies despite redundant and burdensome federal regulation. Your proposed rules for regulating greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from existing power plants and redefining the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) would unnecessarily expand federal authority over the States in energy policymaking and risk undermining our success.
“In an unprecedented move, your GHG emissions plan would largely dictate to the States the type of electricity generation they could build and operate. In addition, you seek to essentially ban coal from the U.S. energy mix. Your pursuit of this objective will heavily impact those of our states that rely primarily on coal for electricity generation such a decision should not be made by unaccountable bureaucrats. Your Administration is also pushing for Washington to seize regulatory control of nearly all waters located in the States by expanding the definition of WOTUS. If successful, the federal government would become the arbiters of how our citizens, State highway departments, county flood control and storm water agencies, utilities, irrigation districts, and farmers use their water and their land.
“Although we are still examining the impacts of the GHG proposal released on June 2 and the proposed expansion of WOTUS, we can confidently say that, according to the best available data, millions of jobs will be lost and billions of dollars will be spent over the coming decades in an effort to comply with these and other federal regulations. And those numbers stand to increase with every tightening of those standards hitting particularly hard working families, poor, and elderly.
“Perhaps most disturbing is the fact that your Administration is content to force Americans to bear these substantial costs where there are highly questionable associated environmental benefits. In fact, your EPA Administrator admitted during testimony to the U.S. Senate that there would be no climate mitigation benefits to America pursuing unilateral action. Moreover, in 2008, you personally guaranteed that under your energy plan, “electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket.”
“You admitted that your energy plan would have the following impact: “[Energy industries] would have to retrofit their operations that will cost money. They will pass that money onto consumers.”
“You rightly acknowledge that American citizens will literally pay the price of your energy agenda. They will also pay the price in the form of lost jobs and less reliable electricity. As representatives of the citizens who stand to lose so much while gaining next to nothing, it is our duty to confront this issue and to ask that you rescind the regulations you have put forth. Disposing of these regulations will protect Americans from the costs and burdens the rules would impose upon them and will ensure the continuation of America’s energy renaissance, which is indispensable to our country’s economic recovery and job creation and which is largely a result of State policies.”
The program is a response to the theory that global warming (originally it was global cooling, and is also called climate change) has occurred as a result of human activity.
President Obama has repeatedly asserted that there is no serious valid scientific opposition to the theory. On June 26, he stated: “So the question is not whether we need to act. The overwhelming judgment of science, accumulated and measured and reviewed and sliced and diced over decades, has put that to rest. “
In reality, the Scientific community remains split on the existence or degree of impact of human-caused global warming. That assertion fails to take into account a significant portion of the scientific community that disagrees with the theory. Indeed, the Scientific community remains split on the reality or degree of impact of human-caused global warming. While studies from the United Nations support the President’s beliefs, 31,072 American scientists including 9,029 Ph.D’s have signed a petition opposing the views of those who claim human factors have warmed Earth’s climate.
A report published in Science Magazine on the heat content of the Pacific Ocean during the past 10,000 years notes that “water masses linked to North Pacific and Antarctica intermediate waters were warmer…during the middle Holcene thermal maximum than over the past century. Both water masses were…warmer during the Medieval Warm period…than in recent decades.
Professor Richard Lindzen of MIT, quoted in infowars.com, notes that the changes due to global warming are too small to account for. He stated that in the January 2014 article that “Global warming, climate change, all these things are just a dream come true for politicians. The opportunities for taxation, for policies, for control, for crony capitalism are just immense, you can see their eyes bulge.”
The U.K.’s Telegraph notes that science writer Steven Goddard, using original data from the 20th century, has indications that the Earth has actually been cooling since the 1930’s. Swedish studies have found that Earth was warmer both in ancient and Medieval eras than it is currently.
Substantial constitutional, scientific, economic, military and political considerations may result in a significant effort to reverse the executive action.