The president's 'Clean Power Plan' is worse than you think
According to the American Legislative Exchange Council, President Obama's "Clean Energy Plan" would take 33% of productive electrical capacity off the grid by 2020. And the Washington Free Beacon notes that another report shows that the plan would close 48% of all coal-fired plants in the country.
As the Wall Street Journal points out, this plan is "regulation without representation." The president's rules would usurp the traditional role of states in managing their own electrical generation and saddle the economy with enormous costs while empowering the EPA to control vast swaths of the American economy.
States have regulated their power systems since the early days of electrification, but the EPA is now usurping this role to nationalize power generation and consumption. To meet the EPA’s targets, states must pass new laws or regulations to shift their energy mix from fossil fuels, subsidize alternative energy, improve efficiency, impose a cap-and-trade program, or all of the above.
Coal-fired power will be the first to be shot, but the EPA is targeting all sources of carbon energy. As coal plants have retired amid seven years of EPA assault, natural gas recently eclipsed coal as the dominant source of electric power. This cleaner-burning gas surge has led to the cheapest and fastest emissions plunge in history, but the EPA isn’t satisfied.
Thus the new rule’s central planning favors green energy sources like wind and solar. The plan expands their quotas and funding, while punishing states that are insufficiently enthusiastic. The EPA estimates renewables will make up 28% of U.S. electric capacity by 2030, up from less than 5% today.
The rule is the first step in a crescendo of climate-change politics that Mr. Obama is planning for his final days. In September he will commune with Pope Francis on the subject, and then jet to Paris in hopes that his new rule shows enough U.S. progress that the climate treaty conference in December will reach some grand accord.
As for the home front, the point is to bull-rush states into making permanent changes to their energy systems. The investments and lead times in new power plants and transmission lines on this scale are generational. Yet state compliance plans are due in September 2016, and most of the carbon reductions must be complete by 2022.
The White House and EPA know they are distorting the law beyond recognition and that this rule will be litigated for years. But they figure that if they can intimidate the states into enacting as much change as fast as possible, a legal defeat won’t matter because the outcome will be a fait accompli.
We should be used to the federal government trying to bully the states into carrying out unreasonable mandates. The president's executive orders on immigration are another example. In that case, state attorneys general sued Washington and have won a restraining order against implementing the new rules.
Expect something similar with the new Clean Power Plan. Or, as the Journal points out, perhaps the governors can simply refuse to carry out the EPA's diktats:
Meantime, states can help the resistance by refusing to participate. The Clean Air Act is a creature of cooperative federalism, and Governors have no obligation to craft a compliance plan. The feds will try to enforce a fallback, but they can’t commandeer the states, and they lack the money, personnel and bandwidth to overcome a broad boycott. Let’s see how much “clean power” the EPA really has.
The states have good reason to avoid collaborating in a scheme that will result in higher prices for consumers and business as the EPA mandates are passed down the energy chain. The plan also endangers electric reliability, and the strains to the grid could lead to brownouts or worse. The EPA added a reliability “safety valve” in the final rule as a concession that these risks are real, but this offers little protection in practice.
A rational person might ask, "What's the rush?" Why 15 years instead of 30 or 40? The answer is, again, Obama's "legacy." He is willing to send the economy into the crapper in order to be hailed by climate hysterics as a bold visionary.
The EPA's assault on coal is totally unnecessary – if they would be willing to wait a decade. In 10 years, coal plants will be burning much cleaner, perhaps hundreds of thousands of workers will keep their jobs, and the increased costs will be spread out over a sufficient period of time to lessen their impact.
But showing favor to coal at all would set the green fanatics against Obama. That simply can't happen when a president puts his legacy before the welfare of the people.