Oh, good: Obama's "new" energy plan expected to raise electricity costs

The War on Coal, et al. is back with a vengeance — and get ready to pay for the hefty pricetag, America. This afternoon, President Obama will be announcing his munificent intentions to combat climate change by using his august executive authority to — among other things — limit greenhouse gas emissions from existing power plants, increase appliance efficiency standards, and further “invest” in renewable energy development. Get excited:

In a speech at Georgetown University, the president will lay out what the administration is billing as a comprehensive plan built on three pillars: cutting the nation’s carbon pollution, leading global efforts to reduce carbon emissions and preparing the United States for the impacts of climate change. As part of that effort, Mr. Obama on Tuesday will sign a presidential memorandum directing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to start engaging with states, the private sector and other stakeholders to set carbon pollution standards for both new and existing carbon power plants.

The president, a senior administration official said, has “made it very clear his preference would be for Congress to act.” At this point, however, he is ready to rely on the existing authorities in the executive branch. …

Gee — lucky us. Obama’s EPA has already introduced several other ‘clean-air’ rules that have put some strict limits  on the coal industry, but federal regulations directly concerning carbon emissions are the holy grail for which many environmentalist groups have been waiting — and a very costly one at that.

But the move to impose greenhouse gas limits on existing plants — which account for a third of the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions and 40 percent of its carbon emissions — will raise consumers’ electricity prices in the short term as utilities are forced to shutter aging coal plants to comply with stricter pollution limits.

According to the Edison Electric Institute, a utility trade group, there are 1,142 coal-fired utilities in the United States and 3,967 natural-gas-fired plants, all of which would face new carbon limits under Obama’s proposal. Last year they accounted for nearly 68 percent of all electricity production, according to EEI, compared with nuclear and hydropower utilities, which made up 19 percent and 6.7 percent, respectively. All renewables combined amounted to 5.4percent of electricity generation in 2012.

Hmm. “In the short term” may have some degree of truth to it, given that natural gas is already providing a competitive substitute and its free-market development is going strong, but in the meantime, the premature and forcible redirection of our energy sector is going to cause real cost-of-living increases that are going to accomplish little-to-nothing to help us grow our struggling economy. This is just more of the same type of holier-than-thou, government-knows-best, top-down regulatory fiat that we’ve seen pushing electricity prices precipitously upwards in Europe over the past few years, to the detriment of their collective economy.

Anyhow, I doubt he’ll be mentioning this in his speech:

Environmentalists are concerned that the climate change strategy will just be a ploy to appease them in the face of plans to green light TransCanada Corp’s Keystone XL pipeline that will transport heavy crude (dirty oil sands) from Canada to US Gulf Coast refineries. Opponents of Keystone XL say this will override anything Obama has in store by way of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and controlling carbon dioxide.

It is less likely (though not impossible) that Obama will talk about Keystone tomorrow, but opponents think the climate change plan he unveils will be designed to wow and thus lay the stage for less opposition to Keystone when it is approved. We don’t expect a decision on Keystone XL until the end of this year, or perhaps even early next year.

It is truly amazing that an otherwise unremarkable pipeline, of which the United States is going to need many more in coming years to effectively cope with the oil-and-gas boom, could be even remotely considered a “tradeoff” for major regulations with a massive impact spanning multiple industries and all American energy consumers. Ridiculous.

Update: Oh, my:

President Barack Obama will ask the State Department not to approve the construction of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline unless it can first determine that it will not lead to a net increase in greenhouse gas emissions, a senior administration official told The Huffington Post. …

The new Obama policy somewhat splits the difference — not killing the project outright, but ensuring that it meets a basic environmental standard. …

“As the executive order on Keystone contemplates, the environmental impacts will be important criteria used in the determination of whether the Keystone pipeline application will ultimately be approved at the completion of the State Department decision process,” said the senior administration official. “In today’s speech, the president will make clear that the State Department should approve the pipeline only if it will not lead to a net increase in overall greenhouse gas emissions.”

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