The EPA’s new CO2 emissions rule may be designed to combat global warming, but it will instead accomplish exactly one goal — killing off the American coal industry. The rule, which requires both new and existing power plants to cut emissions by 30 percent over the next 11 years, deliberately targets coal-fired plants that now face massive compliance costs. In effect, the rule is an end-around way of eliminating American coal as an affordable and practical source of electricity generation.
Coal creates over 550,000 jobs across the country (most of them blue-collar), and is the cheapest source of electricity available. In fact, our steady supply of coal is a major reason why Americans enjoy some of the lowest electricity costs in the world. With at least 272 billion tons of this fuel — a quarter of the world’s supply — still domestically available, coal can continue to help working families power their homes at affordable rates for generations to come.
Technological advancements are also making coal a cleaner and more eco-friendly fuel. North Dakota alone has invested $1 billion to reduce coal emissions, and now boasts seven of the cleanest, most innovative coal-fired power plants in the world — including the world’s largest CO2 sequestration project. This clean coal technology is creating jobs while reducing air pollution. The American Lung Association recently gave every North Dakota county it surveyed an “A” grade for air quality.
America is fortunate to have vast reserves of coal capable of serving as the low-cost, reliable backbone of our energy economy while we experiment with and gradually introduce renewable sources of power. Investment in clean coal technology will allow us to further reduce carbon emissions and keep electricity prices low and stable while continuing to diversify our energy portfolio and move toward energy independence.
The EPA, however, is willing to bring all of this to a halt. The agency’s assault on coal in the name of climate change overlooks the pivotal role coal plays in any all-of-the-above energy strategy aimed at increasing the use of renewable fuel sources. As Germany learned the hard way after passing a disastrous green energy law, forcing an industrialized economy to abandon conventional power sources en masse for unproven, unreliable renewables is costly, reckless and destructive.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has already projected that the new EPA rule will cost us $50 billion per year in GDP, prevent the creation of 220,000 jobs, and reduce household disposable income by $550 billion per year. That money won’t be coming out of the pockets of millionaires and billionaires — it will be taken from blue-collar miners and plant workers sent to the unemployment lines, and middle-class families forced to pay higher utility bills.
In a poor job market, the White House should be focusing on ways to grow the economy and alleviate financial pressure on families. Instead, Washington is pursuing a reckless environmental agenda that will eliminate jobs and make electricity more expensive.
The coal industry is doing its part to mitigate CO2 emissions and institute eco-friendlier mining practices while continuing to power the homes of working America. Affordable energy isn’t incompatible with emission reduction and if the EPA were at all willing to come to the negotiating table in good faith, it would find that coal is part of the solution, not part of the problem.
Jason Stverak is president of the Franklin Center for Government & Public Integrity.