Economy, Regs, & Taxes

The EPA's 'Moral Obligation' Is Going to Cost a Lot of Money

New carbon emissions regulations come with a high price and bipartisan opposition.

Jun. 3, 2014

On Monday, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued 645 pages of new regulations regarding carbon dioxide emissions. The rules feature a required 30% reduction of CO2 emissions from fossil fuel-burning power plants by 2030. The coal industry – which provides 40% of the nation’s electricity – will be hardest hit, though natural gas-fired plants will also be affected. The proposal will be finalized by mid-2015, but consumers can look for the pain to begin with their coming electric bills.

“We have a moral obligation to act,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. Professional climate alarmist Al Gore likewise called the EPA’s action “really good news” because it “re-establishes the moral authority on the part of the United States of America in leading the world community.” No mention of constitutional authority – always with statists it’s a “moral obligation” to do what they say.

The Washington Post gives the background for the rules: “Under President George W. Bush, the agency argued that Congress never intended to regulate carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act, so it lacked authority to do so. In 2007, the Supreme Court disagreed, ruling in Massachusetts v. EPA that the law was ‘unambiguous’ and that emissions came under its broad definition of ‘air pollutant.’ It ordered the agency to determine whether greenhouse-gas emissions endanger public health or the environment. The EPA issued an ‘endangerment finding’ in December 2009 that laid the groundwork for the power-plant rule it proposed Monday.”

The new rules are cloaked in false federalism, giving states first dibs at crafting their own regulations by 2017. But if states refuse to act as federal agents, the EPA will make its own rules for those states. Sound familiar? It’s the template for ObamaCare.

The primary reason for the new rules is that Barack Obama is making climate change a centerpiece of his second term agenda. In his Saturday address, he lamented, “Today, about 40% of America’s carbon pollution comes from power plants. But right now, there are no national limits to the amount of carbon pollution that existing plants can pump into the air we breathe. None. We limit the amount of toxic chemicals like mercury, sulfur, and arsenic that power plants put in our air and water. But they can dump unlimited amounts of carbon pollution into the air. It’s not smart, it’s not safe, and it doesn’t make sense.” Naturally, his solution is massive government regulation.

It matters not that his regulations will cripple the economy with a huge increase in energy prices. In fact, he casually dismisses such objections: “Now, special interests and their allies in Congress will claim that these guidelines will kill jobs and crush the economy. Let’s face it, that’s what they always say.” In fact, the EPA argues the regulations will benefit the economy. For every $1 “invested,” it says, there will be $7 in health benefits for Americans, and public health and climate benefits will outweigh economic costs by as much as 12 to 1 by 2030. But they also estimate compliance will cost $8.8 billion per year, which is no doubt an underestimate that even at face value makes their rosy prediction of benefits even harder to believe.

Opposition to the plan runs across the aisle, with several Democrats up for re-election scrambling to cover their own rears. But Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) summed it up in a letter to Obama: “Washington should not pick winners and losers in the energy economy.”

United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) president Cecil Roberts declared Big Labor’s opposition: “The proposed rule … will lead to long-term and irreversible job losses for thousands of coal miners, electrical workers, utility workers, boilermakers, railroad workers and others without achieving any significant reduction of global greenhouse gas emissions.”

The Wall Street Journal adds, “The EPA claims to be targeting ‘polluters,’ but the government is essentially creating an artificial scarcity in carbon energy. Scarcities mean higher prices, which will hit the poor far harder than they will the anticarbon crusaders who live in Pacific Heights. The lowest 10% of earners pay three times as much as a share of their income for electricity compared to the middle class. If you want more inequality, this is an ideal way to ensure it.” And all for policy that won’t affect the earth’s temperature even a fraction of a degree.

The administration insists that a “moral obligation” to fight climate change is at the heart of its efforts. But it’s simply a convenient way to seize more power.

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