In its latest move to drive up the cost of energy to consumers, businesses, and manufacturers, the Obama EPA March 27 issued a final rule regulating greenhouse-gas emissions from electric utilities. EPA’s action will effectively ban the construction of new coal-fired power plants.

Under the rule, no new power plant will be allowed to emit more than 1,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt of electricity produced. On average, U.S. coal plants emit 1,768 pounds of CO2 per megawatt of electricity. The rule requires future plants to use as yet non-existent carbon capture and control technologies to cut their emissions to the new standard. With no technology available to bring down CO2 emissions to the new standard, EPA, in the name of combating climate change, is effectively telling the coal industry, which produces 55 percent of our nation’s electricity, that its days are numbered.

The new rule exempts plants that are either under construction or in the permitting process. Existing coal plants have been under relentless regulatory assault by the Obama EPA, which has subjected them to stringent mercury emissions standards and cross-state pollution rules. As a result, about 13 percent of existing coal-fired power plants are expected to shut down in the near future.

While natural gas from America’s energy-rich shale formations will be able to fill some of the void created by EPA’s war on coal, families and businesses in the coal-dependent heartland of America are facing the real possibility of rolling blackouts in the coming years, as coal plants shut down before natural gas can come on line to take coal’s place. In these circumstances, dramatically higher electricity prices, particularly in the Midwest, are unavoidable.

Supported by its allies in the environmental movement, EPA justifies its actions by pointing to the alleged, but completely unproven, relationship between greenhouse-gas emissions and “climate change,” formerly known as global warming. To that end, the Obama administration vigorously supported passage of cap-and-trade legislation in Congress. But Congress refused to go along, so the White House circumvented the legislative process in favor of having EPA impose carbon emissions administratively. Luke Popovich, a spokesman for the National Mining Association, put it this way to the Washington Post (March 27): “After Congress refused to pass carbon caps, the administration insisted there were other ways to skin the cat, and this is another way – by setting a standard deliberately calculated to drive affordable coal out of the electricity market.”

Senator James Inhofe (R-Oklahoma), ranking member of the Senate Environment & Public Works Committee, condemned EPA’s move in the sharpest terms. “It’s hard to imagine that the Obama EPA is announcing a massive energy tax today on Americans at a time when they are already reeling from skyrocketing gas prices,” he said in a statement. “So much for President Obama’s claims to be for an ‘all-of-the-above’ approach – these regulations are designed specifically to kill coal in American electricity generation, which will significantly raise energy prices on American families. This plan is the most devastating installment of the Obama administration’s war on affordable energy: it achieves their cap-and-trade agenda through regulation instead of legislation.”