Can you imagine paying 27 percent more for electricity? That’s exactly what would have happened to wholesale electricity prices in Tennessee if the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan had been adopted. Thankfully, reason and the law prevailed and the EPA’s replacement rule – the Affordable Clean Energy rule – was issued June 19.
The CPP was a coal killer. It was designed by the Obama-era Environmental Protection Agency to push coal aside, boost renewable power and upend the nation’s electricity mix. The plan was not only exorbitantly expensive, it also was the poster child for federal regulatory overreach.
Fortunately, it never became law. The U.S. Supreme Court stopped its implementation after 28 states challenged its legality. The Obama EPA had bit off more than it could chew, and the plan imploded under its own unworkable weight. As the courts confirmed, the EPA doesn’t have the authority to tell states to reshape their electricity mixes. It can, however, tell power plant owners to increase the efficiency of plants and reduce emissions. That’s the legally sound approach the new ACE rule takes.
While the ACE rule is already the target of environmentalist scorn, it’s an approach to environmental progress that builds off a history of success. Instead of forcing coal plants into early retirement, the ACE rule provides states with a range of technology options to improve the performance of these essential facilities that underpin the reliability and affordability of the nation’s electricity mix.
Increasing the efficiency of coal plants and deploying environmental control technologies to reduce emissions has cut the emissions of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and particulate matter by more than 90% since 1970. By leaning on technology, the ACE rule will drive further emissions cuts but without the crippling economic damage that seemed a near-certainty with the CPP.
By one economic analysis, the CPP was going to burden consumers with an additional $214 billion in electricity costs between 2022 and 2030. More than 40 states would have faced double-digit increases in the price of wholesale electricity. Sixteen of those states would have seen wholesale power price increases in excess of 25 percent. Of course, the states that would have been forced to shoulder the heaviest burden were coal states. The economic damage would have only been amplified in coal communities when mines closed and the businesses they support were left high and dry.
What precisely the CPP would have achieved remains a puzzle. It would have sacrificed the U.S. coal industry and the economic well-being of dozens of states for some kind of symbolic victory. That, remarkably, is the hard-to-believe truth.
The International Energy Agency reports that coal remains the world’s leading fuel for electricity generation and that global coal consumption continues to rise as developing economies lean on coal to drive industrialization and meet their rapidly expanding demand for energy. This reality should inform our own environmental and energy polices. The environmental challenges we face must be addressed through innovation and technology, not through heavy-handed regulation that punishes American consumers.
Affordable, reliable power shouldn’t be taken for granted, much less dismantled by federal regulatory overreach. The ACE rule is a sound piece of legal rule-making. Measured against the disastrous rule it has replaced, it’s the course correction Americans wanted and deserve.
See the article here.
- On July 3, 2019