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EPA Thinks Regulation Leads to Economic Growth

Want to jumpstart the economy? EPA head says her Clean Power Plan can help.

In the early days, fighting “global warming” was environmentally responsible; fast-forward a few years, and addressing “climate change” was socially just. Now, with only so much rhetoric left in the eco-friendly arsenal, battling supposed anthropogenic climate change has become economically advantageous.

At least, that’s what EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy argues in a piece published this week on Medium, in which she claims the administration’s Clean Power Plan (CPP) — a pleasant sounding name for sweeping additional government regulations of carbon emissions — is important to America’s economic strength. Notwithstanding the fact this administration doesn’t have the best track record on policies leading to economic robustness, McCarthy points to a study by the liberal Economic Policy Institute that found “the CPP is likely to lead to a net increase of roughly 360,000 jobs in 2020, but that the net job creation falls relatively rapidly thereafter, with net employment gains of roughly 15,000 jobs in 2030.”

Those jobs are the new regulators who will be hired to enforce the new regulations, nothing more.

In other words, forget hoping a free market will drive economic growth; what’s really needed is new regulations on carbon emissions! As McCarthy writes, “When we set ground rules to limit carbon pollution, we send a long-term market signal that propels innovation and investment in cleaner energy technologies, expanding new industries and creating good-paying jobs.” She’s right that the administration is sending a market signal, but it’s not the one she claims.

Indeed, according to labor union leader Cecil Roberts, president of United Mine Workers of America (UMWA), “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 International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers echoed this concern, cautioning against “focus[ing] solely on the environmental aspect of public policy at the expense of balancing our nation’s economic and energy needs” and noting, “The jobs of thousands of working men and women and the well-being of their communities are also worthy of saving.”

Furthermore, per a study commissioned by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, CPP’s regulations “threaten to suppress average annual U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by $51 billion and lead to an average of 224,000 fewer U.S. jobs every year through 2030, relative to baseline economic forecasts.” And according to The Heritage Foundation, the economic impact would be even worse, with EPA regulations eliminating an average of $155 billion annually in GDP through 2030.

Of course, before the EPA rams regulations down the nation’s throat, the administration wants to hear from Americans — sort of. When the public comment period opened regarding the then-proposed regulations on coal power plants last year, McCarthy wrote, “We expect great feedback at these sessions. And unfortunately, we also expect a healthy dose of the same tired, false and worn out criticism that commonsense EPA action is bad for the economy.” Ah, yes, agree with us or else you’re wrong.

But as Brooking Institution Fellow Phil Wallach wrote in Newsweek, by the time the comment period closed in December 2014 more than four million comments had been submitted. By comparison, Clean Air Act regulations usually garner a few dozen to a hundred. Instead of ceding that millions of Americans may have serious concerns with CPP, however, Wallach proposed that the “barriers to ‘participating’” in commenting might be a “bit higher, thereby saving our public servants a great deal of unnecessary work.” Yes, nothing like wasting the government’s time addressing the people’s tired, false and worn out petitions.

Public concern notwithstanding, the administration is plowing ahead with CPP, effectively claiming that by picking winners (solar and wind energy) and losers (fossil fuels, including petroleum, coal and natural gas) Washington regulators can create a strong economy. Because, you know, this approach has worked oh so well before.

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