The EPA has issued a new regulatory assault on coal to prevent a climate crisis that doesn’t exist with a mandated solution which remains to be invented based upon claims which are unsubstantiated.

They certainly didn’t let a Clean Air Act requirement that mandated technologies be “adequately demonstrated” hinder their new performance standards ruling that puts a limit of 1,100 pounds per megawatt hour (lb/MWh) on carbon emissions from new coal power plants.

Not only is there no scientifically supportable climate benefit for limiting such emissions, there is no viable commercial-scale technology to achieve that ideological pipe dream.

Even if it mattered, most modern coal-fired plants can only reduce CO2 emissions to 1,800 lb/MWh or more. What’s more, the EPA already knew that. A fact-finding working group within EPA’s own Science Advisory Board (SAB) informed them that such systems have never been proven outside the laboratory, and that pilot demonstration projects under development are over budget.

The SAB issued a November 12 memo which raised questions regarding the technical feasibility of “sequestering CO2” (removing and storing it), noting that “the peer-review of scientific and technical information presented for coal-fueled sources appears to be inadequate.” In doing so it contradicted the EPA’s claims based upon speculative studies and models produced by a Department of Energy research unit that sequestration works.

Although the EPA brass had assured the SAB panel that those studies had been vetted by“industry experts, academia, and government research and regulatory agencies,” further investigation revealed that the “peer-review” for some of those studies had been conducted by none other than EPA stgaffers and that others were apparently biased. The SAB working group was unable to obtain a documented description of the DOE’s peer review process and other information requested from the EPA.

EPA officials got around the pesky problem of providing evidence requested by arguing that the SAB wasn’t supposed to investigate the sequestration science after all.  And why? Well according to the EPA, they weren’t really mandating sequestration or making rules for it.  No, they were merely requiring coal plants to meet specific emission limits they set (whether achievable or not).  How to accomplish that was a separate issue. That was the industry’s problem, not theirs.

Actually, it’s our problem too — a very big one. The Institute for Energy Research estimated that this “regulatory assault” will eliminate 35 gigawatts of electrical generating capacity — 10% of all U.S. power.  As the Competitive Enterprise Institute observes,“If the carbon dioxide emissions standard for power plants proposed by the EPA today is enacted, the United States will have built its final coal-fired power plant.”

The recent SAB incident certainly isn’t the first time that the EPA has ignored advice that runs counter to their ideological agenda. In fact, its entire 2009 “endangerment finding” decreeing that atmospheric concentrations of six greenhouse gases (including CO2) “threaten the public health and welfare of current and future generations” was refuted at the time by its in-house “Internal Study on Climate.”

The research concluded: “…given the downward trend in temperatures since 1998 (which some think will continue until at least 2030), there is no particular reason to rush into decisions based upon a scientific hypothesis that does not appear to explain most of the available data.”

It was political science, not climate science, that demanded hasty EPA action. As then-presidential candidate Barack Obama promised in 2008 while Obama leanpushing a CO2 cap-and-trade priority: “So if somebody wants to build a coal-powered plant, they can. It’s just that it will bankrupt them because they’re going to be charged a huge sum for all that greenhouse gas that’s being emitted. That will also generate billions of dollars that we can invest in solar, wind, biodiesel, and other alternative energy approaches.”

Let there be no doubt that the Obama Administration is intentionally making energy more expensive for American citizens and job-producing industries. This blatant regulatory strategy, where government picks winners and losers, permeates virtually all aspects of the current federal energy policy.

In addition to attacking coal, an alphabet soup of agencies including the EPA, Interior, and others are also waging wars on oil and gas drilling. Tactics include legal actions to preempt state and private land rights; permitting complexities, delays, and uncertainties on federal lands to discourage enterprise; punitive taxes on fossil fuels, and multi-agency regulatory threats against fracking.

There can be no wonder then to see such assaults continue to drive fossil energy costs higher in order to make heavily taxpayer and consumer-subsidized prices for unreliable wind and solar boondoggles appear competitive. It will require a change in White House and Congress, not in the climate, to make them clean up their act.


  • Larry Bell

    CFACT Advisor Larry Bell heads the graduate program in space architecture at the University of Houston. He founded and directs the Sasakawa International Center for Space Architecture. He is also the author of "Climate of Corruption: Politics and Power Behind the Global Warming Hoax."