OPINION: Rep. Ed Whitfield in The Hill: "President’s climate plan is bad bet for America"

September 25, 2013


President’s climate plan is bad bet for America
By Energy and Power Subcommittee Chairman Ed Whitfield (R-KY)
September 25, 2013

On Friday, President Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency came out with its first major regulation for power plants since the president announced his sweeping climate action plan in June. The proposed rule, which sets greenhouse gas standards for new electricity plants, is so extreme that it will essentially make it illegal to construct new coal-fired electricity plants in America.

The rule calls for emissions limits that are so radical, not even coal-fired plants built with the cleanest commercially available technologies could meet them. The standards would require the adoption of expensive carbon capture and storage technology that has not been commercially demonstrated and is not currently available or viable. The new rule is impossible to meet.

Sadly, the rule released late last week is just the latest attack in the administration’s ongoing war on coal. In addition to limits on new coal plants, the president also called for regulations on existing plants as part of his climate plan. Those standards are not expected to be released until next summer, but if last week’s announcement is any indication of just how far the administration is willing to go to push its climate agenda, the outlook for consumers and thousands of middle-class jobs is bleak. Not only does the president want to block new coal-fired power plants from being built, but he also wants to shut down existing ones. Already, this administration’s regulatory overreach has contributed to the announced closure of 295 coal plants across 33 states.

Coal remains one of our most abundant, affordable and reliable energy sources, providing for approximately 40 percent of the nation’s electricity supply. Removing coal from the nation’s energy mix will only result in higher energy costs for America’s families and businesses, more job losses and a less competitive American economy.

While the onerous regulations are certain to cost our economy billions in economic development and investment and thousands of jobs, what they won’t do is change global temperatures. Just last week, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy testified in front of my subcommittee and told us that her agency does not even attempt to measure whether any of its regulations are actually effective in combating climate change. Instead, she told Congress that the EPA’s regulations are part of a “strategy” to demonstrate global leadership so that the rest of the world will follow.

It simply does not make sense to implement regulations that will raise energy prices on consumers, put folks out of work and harm our economy, especially when the administration admits these actions will not reduce the so-called climate impacts the EPA says are the justification for its regulations.

Raising costs for domestic manufacturing and other energy-intensive industries only serves to outsource those emissions — and jobs — to countries like China and the many other nations that desperately want to grow their economies. The administration’s actions amount to unilateral economic disarmament that offers no environmental gain but will result in economic hardship for Americans.

Congress and the American people recognize that the president’s climate plan is a bad bet for America, which is why efforts to pass cap-and-trade legislation failed back in 2010. Even Senate Democrats rejected the plan.

Since then, the administration has ignored Congress and the American people and has been seeking to impose its sweeping climate agenda through regulation, spending tens of billions of dollars in the process. The administration has been advancing costly restrictions on coal-fired electricity and other fossil fuels while targeting manufacturers with new regulatory burdens. The most recent regulations included in the president’s climate action plan are just more of the same. These kinds of costly energy restrictions threaten to have a very real and very immediate hit to living standards, employment and America’s global competitiveness.

This is the opposite of sound economic or climate policy. Sensible policy starts with the understanding that abundant and affordable energy supplies — both conventional as well as alternative — produce benefits well in excess of costs. This lesson is all the more important now that America is entering an age of energy abundance. America has long been the Saudi Arabia of coal, and new technologies have opened access to vast new oil-and-gas supplies, putting America on track to become the world’s largest oil-and-gas producer. A climate action plan that puts roadblocks in front of this energy abundance is not a plan worth supporting.

There is a better bet for our nation’s future, one that stops treating affordable domestic energy and a strong economy as part of the problem and embraces them as an indispensable part of the solution.

Whitfield has represented Kentucky’s 1st Congressional District since 1995. He sits on the Energy and Commerce Committee and is chairman of the subcommittee on Energy and Power.

Read the column online here.