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The EPA’s worse-than-useless coal regulations

by John Hayward

9 months 20 days 1 hours ago |1140 Views | | | Email | Print

Madcap environmentalism is fantastically expensive – costing the private sector billions of dollars and stamping out countless jobs, to fight phantasmal “problems” like global warming, with rules that bureaucrats are sometimes forced to concede would have little effect even if their phony “crises” were accepted as real. The latest demonstration of this lunacy is the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed new regulatory regime against carbon-dioxide emissions from power plants, in particular the coal-fired variety. It’s a stack of complex but ineffectual regulations that might never go into effect, to deal with a problem that doesn’t exist.


The non-existent non-problem is “global warming.” Even as the die-hard fanatics of this strange religious movement grapple with the complete failure of Earth’s climate to live down to their predictions, our government is still wasting time and money cranking out regulations that bleed the private sector of billions… when they go into effect. Which the new EPA regs probably won’t, because as Jonathan Adler of National Review notes, there is currently little demand to build new plants of the sort that would be blocked, or made vastly more expensive, by these rules.


“The EPA anticipates that the proposed EGU New Source GHG Standards will result in negligible CO2 emission changes, energy impacts, quantified benefits, costs, and economic impacts by 2022,” the agency chirped. ”Accordingly, the EPA also does not anticipate this rule will have any impacts on the price of electricity, employment or labor markets, or the US economy.”


Got that? The regulations won’t do anything, so they won’t cost anything. Aside from the taxpayer money wasted to fund the gigantic agency that wasted its time producing them, of course. But House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi assures us there isn’t an ounce of fat left to cut from our mega-government. ”The cupboard is bare,” she said last weekend on CNN. ”There’s no more cuts to make. It’s really important that people understand that.”


God forbid we should consider cutting the money that funds the bureaucratic armies who toil day and night to produce convoluted regulations that sometimes don’t even have measurable effects on the imaginary problems our bloated agencies grapple with!


Naturally, the EPA doesn’t see itself that way. Despite the official impact analysis predicting these regulations will probably lie inert – unless economic conditions change in a way that make new coal-fired plants attractive – Adler quotes EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy confidently predicting, “Without these steps we will continue to pay an ever-increasing price for climate impacts. In 2012 alone, the cost of weather disasters exceeded $110 billion in the United States, the second costliest year on record.”


Adler calls this completely unscientific effort to blame weather conditions on global warming “shameful stuff,” not least because there hasn’t been any overall increase in hurricane activity during the Age of Global Warming. So we’re supposed to celebrate a bureaucracy cranking out a zillion pages of useless regulations because they’ll frighten industry out of constructing more nasty coal plants, saving us an imaginary $110 billion on non-existent side effects from the global warming that isn’t happening.


The real costs of this regulatory nightmare don’t end there, as Adler goes into detail about the expensive legal challenges that lie ahead, including a fiery debate about whether the carbon-capture technology new coal plants would theoretically be forced to buy is truly effective at controlling the emissions that supposedly contribute to the hurricane-spewing climate change EPA bureaucrats have been daydreaming about. The Obama economy is generally lousy at creating jobs, unless you’re either a federal bureaucrat, or one of the layers who swarm around huge Washington agencies like remora fish following a shark.


The coal industry found plenty of things to dislike in the latest batch of EPA regulations, since they would naturally like to see the economy improve enough to make new power plants feasible, and they resent the mandated costs that would force them out of business. There has been pushback from coal-state Democrats, whose very presence in office is testimony that voters in their states weren’t listening when Barack Obama declared war on coal. ”Never before has the federal government forced an industry to do something that is technologically impossible,” growled Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia.


One of Manchin’s colleagues in the House, Rep. Nick Rahall (D-WV), had even tougher talk, pronouncing himself “dead-set against the EPA and their scheme to issue emissions standards that would make it next to impossible for new coal-fired power plants to be constructed.” He accused the “callous, ideologically-driven agency” of being “numb to the economic pain that their reckless regulations cause.”


Thomas Pyle, president of the Institute for Energy Research, accused the Obama EPA of “reading verbatim from the Sierra Club’s radical playbook” and laid out the problems with these new rules – whose ultimate cost burden will, of course, be borne by American energy consumers:


There are a number of problems with today’s announced rule. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is intentionally evading its statutory responsibility to analyze the costs and benefits of the new regulation by claiming that the economics of coal and natural gas mean that energy producers would meet the goals of the regulation with or without the new rule. This is incredibly disingenuous. Why would the administration spend taxpayer money and agency time to write a rule that has no practical impact whatsoever. Once again, the EPA’s transparency is called into question.


Second, the EPA claims that the costly new technology to drive coal-fired power plants under the new emissions standards is available. Of course, the power plants EPA cites to prove its point have received millions of dollars in federal subsidies. To use federally-funded pilot programs as the basis for a universal standard for America’s baseload electricity supply is not only foolish, it is possibly illegal.


Finally, the stated EPA goal for this rule is to reduce the impacts of climate change. Where, then, is EPA’s analysis of how this rule will reduce the most often cited impacts of climate change, namely reductions in global temperature and sea level rise?


Pyle knows there is no such analysis. As EPA Administrator McCarthy was recently forced to admit, while getting charbroiled on the hot grill of Congressional oversight, the EPA can make no verifiable claim that any of its regulations have ever done anything to reduce global warming. Those fabulous claims of hundred-billion-dollar benefits are the greenhouse gas we should really be worried about.


Global warming fanatics always accuse their debate opponents of nefarious connections to big-money special interests. But there are also special interests who rake in big bucks from environmentalist regulations, and the regulators themselves are the most extra-special special interest of all, because they secure vast amounts of power and money by polluting the economy with a thick sludge of rules and lawsuits.

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