Opinion
The Duke Energy coal-fired power plant is seen from the Dan River in Eden, North Carolina February 19, 2014. REUTERS/Chris Keane The Duke Energy coal-fired power plant is seen from the Dan River in Eden, North Carolina February 19, 2014. REUTERS/Chris Keane  

Obama’s Executive Action On Cap-And-Trade Is All Pain, No Gain

Photo of Sen. David Vitter
Sen. David Vitter
U.S. Senator, Louisiana
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      Sen. David Vitter

      David Vitter represents Louisiana in the United States Senate. He was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1999, was elected to his first term in the Senate in 2004, and was overwhelmingly re-elected in 2010. As a long-time champion for Louisiana jobs created by domestic energy production, Senator Vitter now serves as the top Republican on the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works.

Hearing “E-P-A” can make anyone working in the energy or manufacturing industries cringe. It’s an understandable reaction, especially now that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), under President Obama’s direction, is forcing new regulations on carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants as part of his Climate Action Plan.

These regulations are the president’s second attempt at enacting cap-and-trade. The first failed to get support in Congress, thankfully. This time, he’s using EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy as his quarterback to avoid the legislative process.

Not only will these regulations decrease access to our abundant natural resources, they’ll also bring higher energy prices and cause sweeping job losses. This is certainly the opposite of what our struggling economy needs.

There’s really nothing good about Obama’s cap-and-trade proposal. It’s all pain and no gain. The rule takes authority from state governments, public utility commissions, and even other federal agencies with jurisdiction over electricity generation and gives all the power to the EPA. And, whether states like it or not, they’re forced to implement brand new standards to replace fossil-fuel energy.

If the EPA moves forward with this rule, American families and businesses will be the ones to shoulder the costs without seeing any tangible environmental impacts. Plus, the public won’t have a voice because there’s no opportunity to vote on it through Congress. That’s the pain part.

What makes this even worse is that the proposed rule is expected to have only a 0.02 degrees Celsius impact on global temperatures, because it would not impact the world’s largest carbon emitters like China, India, and Russia. Or in other words – no gain. Unless they want to call skyrocketing electricity prices on all Americans a gain – because those are sure to go up.

The Obama administration said in 2009, “U.S. action alone will not impact world CO2 levels.” Five years later, the EPA is now touting the proposed rule as “climate change mitigation,” claiming that America can lead the rest of the world. What is entirely unclear is any assumption that the world’s biggest emitters will follow us down this path. In fact, countries who have already adopted similar carbon regulations, including Germany and the United Kingdom, have faced economic calamity, including energy shortages. Just last week, the Australian government succeeded in repealing a carbon tax in a last-ditch effort to save their energy industry and economy.

As the top Republican on the Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee with jurisdiction over the EPA, I’m fighting these regulations in two ways.

Last month, I led 41 Senators in pushing President Obama to withdraw the rule in its entirety. In addition to the electricity cost increases and decrease in reliability across the nation, the rule would mostly target the middle class, the elderly, the poor, and those on fixed incomes. Clearly, the rule is an attempt to expand federal jurisdiction beyond what is intended and only serves to further the administration’s massive overreach. Today, the American electricity system is dependable, providing power 7 days a week, 365 days a year to families, schools, hospitals, and businesses. Yet this administration is dedicated to pushing a far-left environmental agenda over providing affordable, reliable electricity across the country.

I also want to bring the debate to Congress – where all major rulemakings of such significance should be thoughtfully discussed. I understand withdrawing the rule won’t be easy, but I refuse to sit idly by while President Obama and his EPA disregard Congress’ role in the legislative process.

Congress is required to balance the authority and regulatory reach of the executive branch, which is why I urged my counterpart on the EPW Committee, Chairman Barbara Boxer (D-CA), to hold a Committee hearing with federal witnesses to examine the impacts of the EPA regulation. Well, we got one federal witness: Gina McCarthy.