Too often in this country we address one problem only to create another problem more serious than the first.
I believe that is exactly what is happening with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed Clean Power Plan, which aims to cut carbon emissions from the nation’s power plants.
While reducing the environmental impact of how we generate power is a worthy goal, the EPA’s proposed approach requires too much, too fast. Should the agency gets its way, one economic study after another has shown the imposed cost on ratepayers would be tremendous.
Take a study by consulting group Energy Venture Analysis. It calculates the Clean Power Plan would drive up wholesale electricity costs in Illinois by nearly 20 percent.
For some Americans, energy bills are an afterthought. But for many the bills already are too high. Surging energy prices are an added burden they do not need and likely cannot bear. I fear the EPA and its environmental allies are racing to tackle the carbon problem without fully considering the real-world impacts of their policy approach.
Often the concerns of the poor, particularly poor minorities, and those on fixed incomes are steamrolled by the better connected and better funded. It is no secret that today’s environmental movement has the ear and the financial backing of many with deep pockets. This isn’t to say these folks don’t have good intentions — cleaner air and water are important — but their approach to meeting environmental goals always seems to come with ever-increasing price tags often disproportionately borne by the less fortunate.
We know the EPA has a history of downplaying, or ignoring, the cost of its regulations. The U.S. Supreme Court recently threw out its Mercury and Air Toxins rule because the agency did not properly assess the cost of the proposal. Now there are troubling signs that the EPA is taking the same misguided approach with its carbon proposal.
The EPA claims that although energy prices would rise under its plan, the cost to consumers would be minimal because folks would use less energy in the years ahead. But some people keep the heat low during the winter or the air conditioning off during the summer because they already can’t afford their energy bills. How are they supposed to use less energy?
If regulators think low-income or fixed-income folks have the means to rush out and buy more energy-efficient appliances, they are sorely mistaken.
Before we head too far down the EPA’s chosen path, shouldn’t we ask if there are other means to achieve emissions reductions? Let’s put some faith in the nation’s ability to innovate and address our environmental challenges with technological solutions. In just the past half decade, energy innovations made the United States the world’s largest producer of natural gas and reversed decades of falling oil production.
This same capacity for technological problem solving should be harnessed to reduce carbon emissions while simultaneously reducing energy costs, not raising them.
Lawmakers around the country are standing up to the EPA and making it clear the Clean Power Plan is a mistake. In Illinois and elsewhere in the Midwest, elected officials deserve our support for pushing back against the EPA’s dangerous proposal. While environmental groups are trying to vilify them for taking a stand against the proposed carbon rule, elected officials who look out for their constituents understand that trading marginal environmental gains for soaring energy prices is a bad deal.
Let’s all stay committed to improving the quality of air and water, but let’s make sure the policies we pursue give equal consideration to the needs of the less fortunate and our most vulnerable.
— Charles Steele, Jr., is president and CEO of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, a civil rights organization co-founded by Dr. Martin Luther King.
See the article here.
- On August 2, 2015