This commentary originally appeared in The Federalist on August 4, 2015.
We have all seen the YouTube video of then-candidate Barack Obama saying his energy goals would make electricity rates “necessarily skyrocket.” That was 2008. Well, with his term less than a year and a half from ending, President Obama is delivering on that promise.
No matter how adroitly he said it, most of Obama’s comments in the ornate White House East Room Monday were propaganda, communication aimed at influencing the attitude of a population toward some cause or position. Facts be damned.
Obama was announcing the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) final Clean Power Plan regulation. It is little changed from the proposed rule, although the administration and supporters will tout cosmetic changes to the rule as evidence of their “flexibility.” It is designed to force states to force the electric utilities to reduce “carbon pollution.” (FYI, carbon is not a pollutant.) Among other things, the regulations require power plants to reduce carbon emissions by 32 percent in 15 years, and states to reduce overall emissions at a rate that depends on current levels. If states don’t create their own plans that please the feds by 2018, EPA will create a plan for and impose it on them.
The Clean Power Plan Is Terrible—Let Us Count the Ways
In reality, nothing from the proposed rules has changed.
ILLEGAL: The final rule is still illegal and will be changed in court as soon as the ink is dry later this summer. At least 15 states, if not more, will file suit challenging the regulation that Harvard Law professor Laurence Tribe called “lawless.” The plan has four “blocks. EPA only has the legal authority to do one of the blocks.
EXPENSIVE: The cost of the rule is in the billions. The final rule still imposes higher energy prices on families, businesses, and the poor. NERA Economic Consulting estimates that U.S. electricity prices will increase by an average of 12 to 17 percent. The Heritage Foundation estimates a loss of $2.5 trillion in gross domestic product and more than 1 million job losses.
INFLEXIBLE: The final rule still offers no actual flexibility to the states. EPA to states: “Comply, or else.” Utilities are scared sh-tless.
DESTABLIZING: According to the North American Electric Reliability Corporation, regional grid operators, and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the final rule threatens the electric power grid.
INEFFECTIVE: Even if you believe carbon is a pollutant, the final rule still does nothing to address climate change—in fact, it only reduces global temperatures by an immeasurable 0.018 degrees Celsius by 2100. Say what? The EPA’s climate rule fails to impact the climate in any meaningful fashion, since the vast majority of global emissions originate outside the United States.
Republican Leaders Pile On
Reaction to the rule was swift. Presidential candidate and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker said, “President Obama’s plan should be called the Costly Power Plan because it will cost hard-working Americans jobs and raise their energy rates.” Presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio (Florida) predicted increases in electricity bills that would be “catastrophic.” Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, also a 2016 candidate, called the rule “irresponsible and overreaching. Climate change will not be solved by grabbing power from states or slowly hollowing out our economy.”
Referring to the plan as a “national energy tax,” House Speaker John Boehner said, “[T]his final plan is an expensive, arrogant insult to Americans who are struggling to make ends meet.” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said of the rule, “Not only will these massive regulations fail to meaningfully affect the global climate, but they could actually end up harming the environment by outsourcing energy production to countries with poor environmental records like India and China. They may also be illegal.”
House Science Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) said, “Today the Obama administration ignored the outcry from stakeholders and the American public in issuing the final rule on its Power Plan. The Obama administration continues to force costly and unnecessary regulations on hardworking American families. The Clean Air Act was never intended to regulate carbon. Yet the president and his Environmental Protection Agency are sidestepping Congress to push their extreme environmental agenda. The final plan released today will shut down power plants across the country, increase electricity prices and cost thousands of Americans their jobs. And my home state of Texas would be one of the hardest hit. This rule goes well beyond the regulation of power plants, even reaching down into Americans’ homes to control electricity use. Higher energy prices means the price of everything will increase, and low-income families already struggling to make ends meet will be among those most burdened by this costly rule.”
As Rep. Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming said, “With the stroke of a pen, President Obama’s EPA is launching a regulatory attack on the west and the nation that will singlehandedly lower our nation’s GDP, increase the price of each kilowatt, and make our power supply less secure.”
Here’s What Lawmakers Should Do
The president is writing a check he expects electricity consumers to pay just so he can be praised in Paris the site of the United Nations meeting in December. Can someone win the Nobel Peace Prize twice?
The federal government should not be allowed to take control of the power system in America. Just like health care under the Affordable Care Act, prices will skyrocket and availability will drop. EPA should especially not be allowed to become our meter readers. Over the last few years, the agency has been caught lying to Congress, hiding science, falsifying emails, and paying employees who pretend they work for the Central Intelligence Agency. Really? Trust EPA? You have to be kidding.
What should states do?
Governors should continue to oppose the rule by refusing to submit a state plan. Three courageous governors have already said publicly that they will not submit a plan.
State legislatures should also oppose the rule by passing legislation to protect consumers, businesses, and low-income Americans, and by restricting state agencies from submitting a state plan until the courts have ruled it legal. Almost 30 states filed negative comments on the proposed rule.
Congress should continue its efforts to restrict funding for the plan, passing legislation protecting ratepayers, and allowing governors to have the flexibility to reject the plan if it raises electricity rates.
Doug Domenech is the director of the Fueling Freedom Project at the Texas Public Policy Foundation. He is the former Virginia secretary of natural resources and deputy chief of staff for the U.S. Department of the Interior in the George W. Bush administration.