“Surprise! The Federal Government Just Did Something That Will Address Climate Change,” blared the headline on the George Soros-funded, radical-left Climate Progress website.
Only the new rule announced Friday by the Environmental Protection Agency to limit carbon emissions from power plants will do nothing of the sort.
What it will address – in the most direct way possible – is the coal industry. And its message to them is simple: Drop dead. If the rule becomes law, new coal-fired plants would be limited to 1,100 pounds per megawatt hour of carbon dioxide emissions, and natural gas plants would be limited to 1,000 pounds per megawatt hour. Today, the most technologically advanced coal plants emit 1,800 pounds and gas plants 800-850.
So you can see the problem here. If this rule ever takes effect, no new coal plants will be built in the United States. To do so would require designing one that somehow emits 40 percent less carbon. All we need is a tiny shot of technological innovation, says EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy.
“We are very confident that the data is showing that carbon capture and sequestration is technologically feasible … and available,” and that it “has been successfully demonstrated,” she said Friday.
The reality-based community disagrees. An emission performance standard is supposed to reflect the “degree of emission limitation achievable through the application of the best system of emission reduction” that has “been adequately demonstrated.” The EPA picked 1,000 lbs of CO2/MWh because gas-fired plants can meet that target. But gas-fired plants do not equal a system of emissions reduction for a coal-fired plant.
The EPA says coal-fired plants can achieve these goals through carbon capture and sequestration – a process that has not even been demonstrated on this large a scale. It withdrew a similarly-constructed rule in April when it became clear the CCS technology was not available and thus the rule would not withstand court challenges.
The technology is no more available today than it was then. McCarthy seems to believe the rule itself will force industry to come up with adequate CCS measures, but the people who do this for a living do not share her optimism, and courts take a dim view of acting on the whims of officials’ crystal ball predictions.
In the interim, as the rule receives comments and those inevitable legal challenges, why would anyone even think of building a coal-fired plant? Coal provides nearly half our electricity, and we have more of it on reserve than any country on Earth. But, for now, all that is on hold until this latest debacle ends in a federal courtroom.
EPA claims the rule has no costs associated with it, which is demonstrably untrue. Increased demand for energy will force us to turn to less-economical sources. It also says the rule has no benefits – that it won’t in any way appreciably reduce carbon emissions.
That part is becoming a recurring theme – coming on the heels of McCarthy’s testimony before the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Tuesday. Under questioning from Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Kan., McCarthy admitted the objective of this and other rules associated with President Obama’s new push on climate regulation is not, in fact, to help the environment.
EPA lists 26 indicators it tries to address with its policies – factors such as heat-related deaths, ocean temperatures, sea-level rises, and snow cover. They are quantifiable, concrete objectives, Pompeo said, and EPA should be able to point to some measure of cause-and-effect progress from its policies.
But McCarthy could not point to a single instance in which an EPA regulation was addressing and improving any of these measurables. The connections, she admitted, can’t be made.
Instead, she said, the object was to “put together a comprehensive climate plan, across the administration, that positions the U.S. for leadership on this issue and that will prompt and leverage international discussions and action.”
In other words, EPA is not shutting down the coal industry to save lives, clean the air, reduce disease, or otherwise in any way reduce warming. It is shutting down the coal industry – and all the jobs and energy affordability that go with it – to position the U.S. for leadership on this issue and prompt and leverage international discussions and action.
So maybe the headline was right after all. Perhaps we just didn’t understand the goal. It wasn’t cleaner air or less global warming; it was starting a conversation among people in China, India, Russia and elsewhere. I’m sure they’re chatting this up right now.
Brian McNicoll is senior director of communications at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a free-market think tank in Washington, D.C.