The drop in gas prices might have you feeling pretty good about the cost of energy lately. But if Washington has its way, Georgians might be paying a lot more for the energy they depend on.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently announced what it calls the Clean Power Plan to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from electric power plants. The plan would require a 30 percent reduction in carbon emissions from electricity production by 2030. That’s an ambitious and costly target to achieve. But the EPA wants to impose even bigger cuts on Georgia: 44 percent. That’s the sixth-largest emissions cut of all the states.
Cutting power plant emissions by almost half will be incredibly expensive, and Georgia’s consumers will pay the price. In a recent study, expert economists predicted the EPA’s plan would drive up the cost of annual electricity and natural gas bills for an average Georgia household by more than $60 per month by 2020.
That’s a tough hit to the budget for Georgia’s middle class families. But it could be devastating for our most vulnerable communities, including the state’s 1 million plus seniors.
Many of the seniors I work with every day are already living too close to the edge. They have to budget carefully to keep food on the table and a roof over their heads. A big increase in the price of something as basic as electricity would strain those budgets to the breaking point.
What will seniors have to do without to pay for Washington’s plan? Heat? Air conditioning? Some meals? Needed medications? Those are decisions nobody should have to make, let alone our retirees.
Even those who can afford to take the financial hit won’t be immune from the disruptions likely to result from the EPA’s proposed mandate. The North American Electric Reliability Corporation, a not-for-profit regulatory group tasked with ensuring that North America’s power systems are reliable, has expressed concerns about the Clean Power Plan’s impact. Because it will inevitably force some power plants to close and disrupt the balanced mix of energy supplies we use to generate our electricity, the plan could make electricity supplies — something Georgians can take for granted today — less reliable.
I’m sure the bureaucrats who dreamed up the Clean Power Plan have the best intentions and think their plan will be good for the country. But they seem to have forgotten about the very real human cost.
Is making cuts to carbon emissions worth forcing seniors to choose between keeping their homes comfortable during the coldest nights of the winter or the hottest days of the summer and food? Should someone barely getting by on Social Security have to foot the bill for action on climate change?
Maybe before the EPA’s regulators finalize their new rules later this year, they should get out of the office, get out of Washington and talk to the very people their sweeping mandate will affect most.
Then they might realize that this isn’t just about abstract numbers and targets. It’s about real people and potentially heart-breaking choices.
Jim Martin is the Chairman of the 60 Plus Association
- On March 26, 2015