The UN's climate change panel is set to release a report next month that reluctantly concludes there has been no warming of the earth in at least the last 15 years. Fewer and fewer people are believers that climate change is man made.
This hasn't stopped the Obama administration from releasing new rules governing "carbon pollution" at new power plants that would mean the virtual destruction of the coal industry.
Linking global warming to public health, disease and extreme weather, the Obama administration pressed ahead Friday with tough requirements to limit carbon pollution from new power plants, despite protests from industry and Republicans that it would dim coal's future.
The proposal, which would set the first national limits on heat-trapping pollution from future power plants, is intended to help reshape where Americans get electricity, moving from a coal-dependent past into a future fired by cleaner sources of energy. It's also a key step in President Barack Obama's global warming plans, because it would put in motion proposals to end what he called "the limitless dumping of carbon pollution" from all power plants.
Under the law once the Environmental Protection Agency controls carbon at new plants, it will also control carbon at existing plants - a regulation the agency said Friday it would start work on immediately to meet a June 2014 deadline.
Yet the federal government's own analysis of the new power plant proposal concludes that it would have a "negligible" impact on carbon dioxide emissions, pose little to no costs for the industry and provide no additional benefits to the public by 2022. That's because it essentially locks in what was widely expected to happen anyway. Even without new federal regulations, the agency concluded that no new coal plants would have been built without carbon controls. Instead, the bulk of new power in this country would be supplied by natural gas, which already meets the standard announced Friday.
"The EPA ... does not anticipate this rule will have any impacts on the price of electricity, employment or labor markets or the U.S. economy," the EPA wrote in its analysis.
The industry, and its allies in Congress, quickly dismissed that conclusion.
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said the agency was holding the coal industry to "impossible standards."
"If these regulations go into effect," he said, "American jobs will be lost, electricity prices will soar and economic uncertainty will grow."
It's true that natural gas is quickly supplanting coal due to its cleaner burning and lower price. But gas is not a good substitute for coal when it comes to older power plants. Conversion at many of these plants is so expensive that nearly 300 of them will probably close.
Cleaner coal burning is just over the horizon. Given time, the industry could meet more stringent standards. Is it coincidence that most coal production in the US is in red states? You have to wonder if the jobs that will be lost were in blue states if the federal government wouldn't be treading a little more carefully.