The Environmental Protection Agency has launched perhaps the most drastic move yet to purportedly curb a leading source of greenhouse gases in the United States. While the intent is good, the cost of the proposed rules would far outweigh the environmental benefits, especially when it comes to jobs and the budgets of hardworking American taxpayers.
The proposed regulations call for cutting carbon dioxide emissions from coal plants by up to 30 percent by 2030, compared with 2005 levels. The Washington Post outlines the primary method through which this goal is to be achieved:
“Under the draft rule, the EPA would let states and utilities meet the new standard with different approaches mixing four options including energy efficiency, shifting from coal to natural gas, investing in renewable energy and making power plant upgrades. Other compliance methods could include offering discounts to encourage consumers to shift electricity use to off-peak hours.”
Before you let the feel-good rhetoric of state-level decision-making get in the way, consider some stark numbers from a U.S. Chamber of Commerce study on the proposed rules. The Chamber’s Energy Institute estimates that if the rules become reality, we’re looking at 224,000 jobs lost per year, for the next 16 years. That’s 3.6 million jobs. Gone.
In addition, compliance costs would reach $480 billion by 2030, and the economic output would decline by more than $50 billion a year during that same time span.
Finally, the rules would place a huge financial burden on Americans through higher electricity costs and an average yearly loss of $200 in real disposable income.
It’s got many politicians understandably up in arms, particularly those in coal-producing states that would bear the brunt of the massive job losses. Understandable because these rules were proposed by the Administration, and are being carried out by an unelected, unrepresentative agency without a vote of Congress, or you and me.
Something else being ignored by government bureaucrats is that the United States has made remarkable strides toward cleaner air and more efficient energy usage without these rules.
Electricity alone is nearly a steal here as compared to our European counterparts – $1,400 a year to keep the lights on in a typical American home. In Germany, for instance, we’d pay more than $4,200 per home.
And coal, the primary target of these proposed government regulations, is still the largest source of American electricity and still among the cheapest ways to produce it. With nearly 28 percent of the world’s supply, no nation on earth has as much coal as the United States. We have more than China, India and Western Europe – combined.
We are also continuously finding cleaner and more efficient ways to use coal. Since 1970, cleaner coal technology has cut the “bad” emissions by 88 percent. In the first quarter of 2012, total carbon emissions from coal in the United States were at their lowest since 1986, and overall energy-related emissions at their lowest since 1992. This trend will only improve as we use more natural gas, which has lower carbon output.
All of this while our nation’s population and economy keep growing. This means far less carbon has been producing far more wealth.
Efforts to be good stewards of the natural resources on our planet should be applauded. But not when those efforts go beyond the scope of democratic government, ignore progress that has already been made through existing rules and developing technologies and above all, kill jobs.