EPA to kill new coal-fired plants through first-ever greenhouse-gas regulations

posted at 8:40 am on March 27, 2012 by Ed Morrissey

If you thought gas prices will never stop rising, just wait until you see what happens to electricity after the Barack Obama’s EPA gets its way.  The agency will deliver on Obama’s election promise to bankrupt any new coal-fired electrical production in its first-ever regulations on greenhouse-gas emissions, the Washington Post reports.  The new regulatory regime will all but guarantee that new coal-fired plants won’t be built to replace others shutting down:

The Environmental Protection Agency will issue the first limits on greenhouse gas emissions from new power plants as early as Tuesday, according to several people briefed on the proposal. The move could end the construction of conventional coal-fired facilities in the United States.

The proposed rule — years in the making and approved by the White House after months of review — will require any new power plant to emit no more than 1,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt of electricity produced. The average U.S. natural gas plant, which emits 800 to 850 pounds of CO2 per megawatt, meets that standard; coal plants emit an average of 1,768 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt.

Industry officials and environmentalists said in interviews that the rule, which comes on the heels of tough new requirements that the Obama administration imposed on mercury emissions and cross-state pollution from utilities within the past year, dooms any proposal to build a coal-fired plant that does not have costly carbon controls.

“This standard effectively bans new coal plants,” said Joseph Stanko, who heads government relations at the law firm Hunton and Williams and represents several utility companies. “So I don’t see how that is an ‘all of the above’ energy policy.”

Well, it’s not, obviously.  Nor has Obama ever honestly intended to apply an “all of the above” energy policy; he mouths the words, but his actions are hostile to hydrocarbon-based energy.  The most honest discussion on energy policy from Obama came in the January 2008 interview with the San Francisco Chronicle, in which he promised to bankrupt new coal-based facilities:

The problem is not technical, uh, and the problem is not mastery of the legislative intricacies of Washington. The problem is, uh, can you get the American people to say, “This is really important,” and force their representatives to do the right thing? That requires mobilizing a citizenry. That requires them understanding what is at stake. Uh, and climate change is a great example.

You know, when I was asked earlier about the issue of coal, uh, you know — Under my plan of a cap and trade system, electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket. Even regardless of what I say about whether coal is good or bad. Because I’m capping greenhouse gases, coal power plants, you know, natural gas, you name it — whatever the plants were, whatever the industry was, uh, they would have to retrofit their operations. That will cost money. They will pass that money on to consumers.

They — you — you can already see what the arguments will be during the general election. People will say, “Ah, Obama and Al Gore, these folks, they’re going to destroy the economy, this is going to cost us eight trillion dollars,” or whatever their number is. Um, if you can’t persuade the American people that yes, there is going to be some increase in electricity rates on the front end, but that over the long term, because of combinations of more efficient energy usage, changing lightbulbs and more efficient appliance, but also technology improving how we can produce clean energy, the economy would benefit.

If we can’t make that argument persuasively enough, you — you, uh, can be Lyndon Johnson, you can be the master of Washington. You’re not going to get that done.

This leads us to the natural-gas option mentioned by the Post.  The response might be, “Well, okay, Obama’s bankrupting the coal industry, but we can still use natural gas.”  That’s only true if we can get the natural gas.  The EPA has also begun blocking the use of hydraulic fracturing, better known as fracking, which allows for massive improvement in extraction and access to vast amounts of natural gas. Note well that Obama included natural gas among those sources to which his policies would be hostile, and so far he’s proving it.

Obama has no interest in an “all of the above” policy on energy.  He wants to drive up energy costs in order to make his favored alternatives somewhat competitive, even though none of them can match the production scope of hydrocarbon sources that are found in abundance in the US.  Obama has less interest in producing power than in exercising it, and Congress needs to put shackles on this EPA before working-class families have to start lighting candles rather than flipping on the light switch.


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