In its latest move in the war on coal, President Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced it would regulate carbon (CO2) from existing power plants. This unnecessary and expensive regulation will have dire consequence for the American economy, especially when it is paired with existing and pending EPA regulations.
A series of prior regulations will force over 300 coal-fired power plants to close down. More specifically, seven of the EPA’s final or pending regulations are projected to cost the economy more than $60 billion per year in lost GDP and to cause the annual loss of nearly 900,000 jobs.
But these regulations don’t only impact coal miners and heavy manufacturers that depend on coal for affordable electricity. When Americans were freezing and grid operators were stretched thin, many relied on coal-fired power to keep their lights on. In early January, around 75 percent of Southern Company’s coal power plants scheduled to retire were called upon to generate electricity. The Tennessee Valley Authority set new records for electricity demand at the same time that nearly 20 of its coal-fired generating facilities are scheduled for retirement.
The EPA is trying to justify its economic damage and threats to affordable base-load electricity through spurious co-benefit claims about reductions in instances of asthma and heart attacks. In reality, reducing carbon does not prevent asthma or heart attacks, after all, we exhale it every few seconds.
What we do know is that being unemployed can have serious effects on a person’s health. On June 15, 2011, Dr. Harvey Brenner of Johns Hopkins University testified before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee:
“The unemployment rate is well established as a risk factor for elevated illness and mortality rates in epidemiological studies performed since the early 1980s. In addition to influences on mental disorder, suicide and alcohol abuse and alcoholism, unemployment is also an important risk factor in cardiovascular disease and overall decreases in life expectancy.”
These negative consequences can spill over into the quality of life for poor children as the National Center for Health Statistics noted:
Children in poor families were four times as likely to be in fair or poor health as children in families that were not poor.
One of the best ways to help Americans is to ensure that they have a job. ATR will have much more to come on the mechanics and problems with this regulation, but until then, we’ll close with House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) comments, “The president promised under his plan, electricity rates would ‘necessarily skyrocket,’ and this is one promise he is actually delivering on. Four years after a Democratic Senate rejected cap-and-trade, the administration continues its pursuit to regulate where Congress refused to legislate. As the American economy shrunk last quarter, why in the world is the president pushing regulations that will serve to increase utility rates for consumers, send manufacturing jobs overseas, and hamstring our economic recovery? And despite the president’s focus on income inequality, this is a plan to make the poor poorer as it is the nation’s most vulnerable who suffer the most from higher energy prices and layoffs.”