By circumventing Congress and unleashing the vast powers of the administrative regulatory state in the name of combating “climate change,” President Obama has – yet again – revealed his determination to subject the American people to the unchecked whims of the federal bureaucracy.
Obama’s “Climate Action Plan” has nothing to do with the climate. Instead, the climate, in all of its complexity, serves as a convenient pretext for the administration — working hand in glove with environmental groups and non-competitive, rent-seeking industries — to seize regulatory control of the production and use of energy so as to further concentrate power in Washington. Obama’s weapons of choice are executive orders and the regulatory power of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), both of which do not require the approval of elected officials in Congress nor those at the state and local level.
Addressing a crowd gathered at Washington’s elite Georgetown University (where the annual cost of tuition is north of $44,000 a year), Obama outlined his scheme to rid the world of “carbon pollution.” Among other things, it calls for a 17 percent reduction of greenhouse-gas emissions in the U.S. by 2020, more stringent efficiency standards for home appliances, tougher fuel mileage requirements for heavy-duty trucks, and more subsidies for already heavily subsidized and environmentally destructive (massive bird and bat kills) wind farms.
War on Coal
But it is the administration’s plans for power plants that will have the most far-reaching effect on consumers and businesses. In 2012, the Obama EPA issued its “new source performance standard” that effectively made it impossible to build new coal-fired power plants, because no technology exists that would enable utilities to meet the new standards. At the time, the head of EPA’s air office, Gina McCarthy, assured the public that existing plants would not have to meet the new standard and that EPA was not promoting fuel-switching. Less than a year after McCarthy’s solemn promise, however, the following sentence appears on page 19 of Obama’s Climate Action Plan: “Going forward, we will promote fuel-switching from coal to gas for electricity production and encourage the development for a global market for gas.”
The cat was let out of the bag when one of Obama’s science advisors, Daniel Shrag of Harvard, told the New York Times (June 25) that, “Politically, the White House is hesitant to say they are having a war on coal. On the other hand, a war on coal is exactly what is needed.” Coal, of which the United States has by far the largest reserves in the world, still account for 37 percent of the nation’s electricity. The administration’s war on coal amounts to nothing less than industrial sabotage by regulatory means. By eliminating affordable, abundant coal from the nation’s energy mix, the administration is deliberately taking a step that will lead to loss of good-paying jobs in the nation’s leading coal-producing states of Wyoming, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Illinois, Ohio, Indiana, Texas, Colorado, New Mexico, Alabama, Virginia, Utah, Montana, and North Dakota. No longer able to draw on rich coal reserves, utilities will have little choice but to charge more for the electricity they sell to their customers. Electricity rates will go up, hitting seniors and others living on lower incomes the hardest.
While natural gas extracted from America’s vast shale formations will be able to fill some of the gap, the elimination of coal as a power source will put huge strains on the already weak economy and on household budgets. And what is to keep the war on coal from morphing into a war on gas? While most Americans welcome the jobs and lower power rates the Shale Revolution has made possible, the Obama administration and its allies in the environmental movement remain firm in their hostility to fossil fuels. After coal has been regulated out of existence, green elites will not hesitate to go after natural gas and oil. EPA bureaucrats and Obama administration political appointees are already devising schemes to bring about federal regulation of hydraulic fracturing, better known as fracking.
The Shale Revolution, and all the potential it holds for enabling American energy independence within a few decades, has unfolded without Washington’s heavy hand. To green elites inside and outside the administration, this is precisely the problem. They will not stand idly by and watch fossil fuels, in this case natural gas and shale oil, provide Americans with affordable energy.
Overseeing the implementation of Obama’s Climate Action Plan will be his designated EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. A fixture in EPA’s bureaucracy for many years, McCarthy is highly skilled at drafting regulations that bypass Congress and impose extraordinary burdens on the lives of ordinary people. How many senators will have the courage and the conviction to stand up for their constituencies in West Virginia, Ohio, North Dakota, Tennessee and elsewhere and vote to reject her nomination?