Politics

Obama’s climate plan criticized as ‘backdoor energy tax’

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Michael Bastasch Contributor
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A key component of President Barack Obama’s global warming plan would amount to a “backdoor energy tax,” according to Thomas Pyle, president of the Institute for Energy Research.

Obama’s plan to address global warming directs the Environmental Protection Agency to quickly move forward with emissions limits for new and existing power plants. The EPA’s proposal for limiting emissions from new power plants would effectively ban the construction of coal-fired power plants, unless they used money-draining pollution control systems.

“It freezes the coal industry because no one is going to want to make an investment in a new facility,” Pyle told The Daily Caller News Foundation, adding that emission limits on existing power plants would result in the decommissioning of coal plants around the country.

Pyle also said that it would be difficult for green energy sources and even natural gas to make up for the lost power generation from shuttered coal-fired power plants.

According to the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, more than 280 coal-fired generating units will be shut down in the coming years, partly due to stricter EPA regulations.

“President Obama has made it his mission to shut down an affordable, reliable source of energy,” said West Virginia Republican Rep. Shelley Moore Capito. “The president’s actions and his adviser’s comments further highlight how out of touch he is with reality. President Obama failed to get his environmental agenda through Congress for a reason. Despite common sense and the voice of Congress, it appears he will unilaterally forge ahead with his partisan agenda.”

Coal produced 37 percent of the country’s electricity last year, according to the Energy Information Administration, while natural gas produced 30 percent and renewable energy sources — biomass, wind, solar and geothermal — produced only 5 percent.

Shuttering coal plants has a large financial cost that will largely be shouldered by consumers, disproportionately hurting the poor, writes liberal Slate columnist Matthew Yglesias, adding that parts of the country that rely on coal will be hit harder than others.

“The basic problem with the EPA approach is that any new rules that will have a meaningful environmental impact — rules that would require existing coal-fired plants to shut down or curtail their operations — are going to have large financial costs,” Yglesias wrote.

“Some parts of the country have a much more coal-based power grid than others and will see disproportionately higher prices,” he added. “For regulations to have a big impact they’ll need to shut down some of the dirtiest plants and at least temporarily increase electricity prices — a move that will have a much harsher impact on the poor, the Southeast, and the Midwest than on prosperous people on the low-carbon West Coast.”

Still, environmentalists have been aggressively pushing the EPA to adopt standards for new and existing power plants, citing concerns over public health and global warming.

“Today’s climate announcement from the White House demonstrates the kind of bold leadership we’ve been waiting for to put us on the right path to fighting the ever-growing climate crisis,” said Doug Howell, director of the Sierra Club of Washington’s Coal-Free Puget Sound Energy campaign. “The president is stepping up to reduce the carbon pollution that is destabilizing our climate, threatening our economy, and endangering our communities.”

“By shutting down the production of coal, not only will the president make it impossible for America to become energy independent but he could deliver an unrecoverable blow to coal-rich states like West Virginia,” Capito argued.

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