President Obama made it clear from the beginning that he was going to tackle global warming. One of the most memorable lines from his nomination victory speech in 2008 was when he said his election would be “the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal.”
Since his omniscience turned out to be more limited than some may have wanted to believe, the President was reduced to the old fashioned methods of producing public policy and building consensus, skills the one-term U.S. Senator lacked.
His attempts to pass cap-and-trade legislation failed even in a Democratically-controlled Congress, so the President turned to the Environmental Protection Agency to unilaterally produce rules to satisfy the environmentalists, while also building his legacy.
Yesterday was the crowning moment when the administration released the Clean Power Plan, aimed at cutting power plant carbon emissions by 32 percent by 2030 from 2005 levels. The roll-out by the President included predictable hyperbole about the impact of the rules; less pollution (though carbon is a naturally-occurring element), healthier children, job creation, energy bill savings, and most of all, saving the planet.
EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy even predicted that the new regulations would cost $8.4 billion annually by 2030, but have total benefits of up to $54 billion. Using that questionable math we should cut out all carbon emissions and triple the benefits!
What we never hear from the administration is that these draconian carbon reductions will stop global warming, and that’s because they won’t. Using the EPA’s own models, reducing carbon emissions by 30 percent (the initial reduction proposed before being adjusted to 32 percent) will slow planetary warming by less than two one-hundredths of a degree by 2100.
The President hopes the rules will demonstrate to the rest of the world that the U.S. is willing to be a leader on global warming. Well, maybe. China, India, Vietnam, Indonesia and other countries with emerging economies continue building coal-fired power plants to supply cheap reliable electricity.
The Clean Power Plan is an economic assault on West Virginia and other coal-producing states, since the new rules will lead to some current coal-fired power plants being shuttered, while making it impossible to build any new ones. Analysts at Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. told the Wall Street Journal that coal consumption will drop 23 percent by 2020.
Coincidentally, just hours before Obama’s White House announcement on the carbon rule, Alpha Natural Resources, which employs nearly 5,000 people at 46 mines and prep plants in West Virginia, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. That’s the fourth coal company in recent months go upside down.
Meanwhile, there is a legitimate legal question whether the EPA has the authority to impose the sweeping rules. States must explain how they will reduce carbon emissions using “building blocks” established by the EPA, meaning the federal government is now going to dictate to states what types of fuels they can use to generate electricity.
West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey is challenging the Clean Power Plan. The case was tossed out of court earlier, but only because the EPA had not yet issued the rules. With those now in place, the case is ripe for review.
America is not an oligarchy, it’s a republic where the people’s representatives debate and decide public policy. The Clean Power Plan is sweeping federal power that creates a monumental shift in the country’s energy economy. It’s almost unfathomable that this can be accomplished through an executive action.
Unless, of course, President Obama believes not only in the abuse of executive power, but also his mastery over the earth and the tides.