According to the Federal Register, on December 7, 2009, the EPA “found” that current and projected concentrations of greenhouse gases (GHG) in the atmosphere threaten the public health and welfare of current and future generations. Unfortunately, this finding and the EPA’s subsequent action threaten the public health and welfare of Georgians far more than greenhouse gases do.
The EPA declares the goal of its Clean Power Plan is to cut “carbon pollution” from the power sector by 30 percent from 2005 levels. When the agency starts with referring to carbon emissions as carbon “pollution,” it demonstrates a slanted, not science-based agenda. Carbon is not pollution: We exhale it; it’s contained in all living organisms, forms the basis for organic molecules and is in fact the second most abundant element in the human body – accounting for 18 percent of our body weight.
According to the Federal Register, President Obama’s executive order “specifically directs EPA to build on state leadership, provide flexibility and take advantage of a wide range of energy sources and technologies towards building a cleaner power sector.” Unfortunately, the flexibility the EPA is offering Georgia is akin to letting a condemned man choose his method of execution: One way or another, it’s the end.
It would require Georgia utilities to cut emissions by an additional 44 percent by 2030 at existing plants. The EPA expects this to be done by converting to alternative sources of energy and by energy conservation/ efficiency. But the EPA won’t credit Georgia’s utilities for their work done in embracing carbon-free energy by building the first nuclear units since Three Mile Island. EPA’s goal is also to, “Shrink electricity bills roughly 8 percent by increasing energy efficiency and reducing demand.” Reducing energy demand, like with water conservation measures, leaves the utilities lacking the revenue they need for efficiencies the government wants.
In the Federal Register, the EPA notes, “At this time we do not have any estimates regarding the benefits and costs of this action, but we do expect it to be a significant regulatory action with annual effects on the economy exceeding $100 million.”
• In the rule, the EPA projects that, in 2030, “the significant reductions in the harmful carbon pollution and in other air pollution, to which this rule would lead, would result in net climate and health benefits of $48 billion to $82 billion.”
• In the overview, the benefits climb to $55 billion to $93 billion in 2030, including avoiding 2,700 to 6,600 premature deaths and 140,000 to 150,000 asthma attacks in children.
We never want our children to suffer, especially not if their asthma attacks are caused by polluting power plants. However, this nation deserves a credible approach that yields tangible results, and, as taxpayers, we deserve justification of the financial costs and the claimed benefits.
Then-EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson told Congress back in 2009 that U.S. action alone will not impact global carbon emissions levels; that this was “part of an overall strategy that is positioning the U.S. for leadership in an international discussion.” Meanwhile, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for 21st Century Energy predicts this will cost America’s economy over $50 billion a year between now and 2030, according to a new report.
If the EPA is needlessly placing burdensome regulations on America’s energy companies to curb carbon emissions, those costs will be passed through to consumers and hurt those very families with lower incomes – the families who struggle with children with asthma – taking away money that can be better used to improve their quality of life.
Georgia’s utilities are diversifying their energy sources to accommodate those willing to pay for renewable alternatives and reduced emissions. Businesses are operating more efficiently and energy intensively. Targeting Georgia utilities for carbon emissions from coal-fired plants in which this abundant domestic product is used responsibly is not only wrong, it’s unethical.
The EPA’s Clean Power Plan is executive and federal overreach. It’s poor policy, poor science and poor practice, especially for Georgians. What the EPA is doing is handing over an economic advantage to our competitors, burdening our taxpayers, businesses and consumers with additional costs and – worse – offering false hope to millions of Americans families that it can reduce asthma attacks that have no link to carbon emissions.
Benita M. Dodd is Vice President of the Georgia Public Policy Foundation, an independent, state-focused think tank that proposes market-oriented approaches to public policy to improve the lives of Georgians.