The economic impact of Great Lakes manufacturers is world renowned. It is home to 123,000 manufacturers and their 5 million employees. It is the heart of this nation’s manufacturing base, accounting for 35 percent of U.S. manufacturing output and 42 percent of U.S. manufacturing jobs.
Unfortunately, the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed Clean Power Plan threatens this productivity just as the industry has come back. If adopted, these regulations will handcuff one of the industry’s primary energy sources and shift job-killing consequences such as higher costs and increased regulations to the manufacturers on whom so many livelihoods rely.
The recent resurgence of the region’s manufacturers is due in large part to a primary competitive advantage — affordable, reliable, continuous energy. The primary source of this base load power is coal-fired electricity that can be concentrated in large amounts at individual sites, which is essential for manufacturing, and requires a well-functioning interconnected electric power grid.
The EPA’s Clean Power Plan specifically undercuts this energy source. Its goal of a 30 percent reduction in carbon emissions from existing power plants by 2030 will be difficult to achieve and creates escalating compliance costs and unintended consequences. Power plants already scheduled to be phased out by 2030 may actually be shuttered earlier as a result of the Clean Power Plan, leaving our fragile electricity grid even more vulnerable to brownouts or blackouts. It also ignores the political, regulatory and economic challenges that come with other sources of base load power — such as nuclear and natural gas.
Then there is the reality that the Clean Power Plan is estimated to produce only a negligible reduction in worldwide carbon emissions while shifting increased costs to manufacturers. Greenhouse gas emissions from electric power plants in the United States peaked in the 2005-07 period and have been generally declining since, according to the EPA’s Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks. We believe that this trend of emissions reductions will continue as technologies improve and previously planned replacements of antiquated coal plants come on line.
The businesses and manufacturers in the Great Lakes region understand the value of pragmatic policy that drives development while protecting our natural resources and environment. Our nation needs a coherent, comprehensive energy policy that sensibly addresses the generation and distribution of cleaner electric power. However, the EPA’s proposed rules, drafted independently of a coherent energy strategy, threaten efforts aimed toward a more prosperous economy that can actually drive a cleaner environment.
President Barack Obama’s EPA should keep candidate Obama’s pledge of an “all of the above” energy strategy that encourages the development of clean coal technologies, abundant natural gas supplies and safe nuclear power generation — in addition to the continuing development of renewable sources and advances in energy efficiency. Realizing such a comprehensive strategy will only come with continued economic prosperity that drives innovation.
It is time to stay the course, not create additional unnecessary costs and obstacles to the forces that are working to restore our nation’s energy independence and create a cleaner energy future.
Brad Williams is vice president of government relations for the Detroit Regional Chamber.
Ed Wolking Jr. is executive director of the Great Lakes Metro Chambers Coalition and executive counsel of the Detroit Regional Chamber.
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- On August 5, 2015