National Journal asked CFACT, “will last week’s announcement of new EPA regs to curb greenhouse gases on coal plants have any political fallout?”

Well, of course!

The announcement has already energized both proponents and opponents of the rules for the 2014 elections, and may well generate higher turnout at the polls this fall — especially in states that will be sorely impacted. But the larger question is; what will be the fallout in 2016?

Given President Obama’s disdain for working with elected representatives and his willingness to bypass Congress, there is no reason to expect that, even if his party loses the Senate this fall, the EPA will not continue with their plans to implement the power plant rules. The spin from the White House is that the rules provide great flexibility for states to implement. But even with some “leniency” – including considerations of existing power plant mix and new scrubbers — there will still likely be up to 800,000 job losses by coal miners and higher electricity prices for consumers. This doesn’t even include, of course, other White House actions (or inaction) that are also costing jobs — such as the non-approval of the Keystone XL pipeline. All these could have major implications for the next election cycle.

EPA buildingThe reality is the Obama administration is fully engaged in picking winners and losers in energy production. His EPA has been throwing away billions in subsidies for wind and solar projects that even federal money managers acknowledged had little chance of success. As widely known, Obama promised even before he was elected that energy prices will necessarily skyrocket, that he intended to bankrupt coal companies, and that he will do everything in his power to curtail oil and gas exploration and production on federal lands and waters. He’s made good on those promises. These latest EPA regs, coupled with inaction on the Keystone XL pipeline, are but further signals that his more recent syrupy talk about energy diversity is not to be trusted.

The EPA has a long record of working against industrial innovation through rejecting practical solutions that would result in cleaner air and water. Many of the industry-EPA fights have resulted from EPA’s insistence upon an all-or-nothing approach in which companies and other regulated entities must choose between a few economically nonviable “solutions.” As a result, the typical industry response is not to upgrade at all, but rather to convert coal plants to gas ones or shut them down entirely rather than acceding to regulatory demands that are prohibitively expensive. Of course, even these actions to comply with EPA regs will not ultimate satisfy the green activists who are closely aligned with the Obama officials – extremists whose only goal is to rid the country of its vital fossil fuel energy entirely.

As for politics, the simple fact is Obamacare, the Veterans Administration and Internal Revenue Service scandals, and a host of foreign policy issues have already put many Democratic seats and open seats in the U.S. Senate at risk in 2014 – and bolstered Republican incumbents whose seats might otherwise be at risk. Adding in the EPA power plant proposed rule to this mix is not going to be a game changer for races already likely decided, or in jeopardy. It may, in fact, cost some Democrats in red states dearly.

President Obama, however, is probably looking longer term at the prospect that his policies will further strengthen his party’s favor with younger voters and activists whose organizations are major players in his coalition. It may well be that he has already conceded he may face major struggles after November to implement any of his agenda legislatively, and thus the regulatory route is his best way to go.

Moreover, the President is likely hoping to solidify the progressive base in blue states (like California), hoping that additional state actions in these regions will push the envelope further to the left of the proposed EPA controls and take over the driving of future energy regulation.

But the most important goal for President Obama and his allies is to ensure that his successor in the White House will be like-minded and thus willing and able to implement the policies he has championed. Their expectation is that, as time marches on, their anti-carbon, green energy policies will become permanent fixture of the American political culture. Sadly, they seem not at all concerned that their policies, while maybe scoring some political points with their allies, will almost certainly lead to job losses, higher energy costs, and perhaps America’s economic decline.

This article originally appeared at National Journal where Craig Rucker serves on the panel of “energy experts.”  Duggan Flanakin contributed to this article.



  • Craig Rucker

    Craig Rucker is a co-founder of CFACT and currently serves as its president.