Biden EPA Threatens to Shut Down Coal Plants Amid Energy Crisis

AP Photo/Martin Meissner, file

Just last month, it was determined that the cost of electricity in the United States was still rising at a rate faster than the national average for inflation. In other words, even if you are somehow managing to pay your rent or your mortgage in this economy and maintain a place to live, you might not be able to afford to heat it or keep the lights on. So what has Joe Biden done in response? He has ordered the EPA to issue new rules that will either make electricity more expensive or remove some of it from the power grid. (Possibly both.) Under the new rules, coal and natural gas power plants will be forced to capture nearly all smokestack emissions or... (wait for it) shut down. What could possibly go wrong? (Associated Press)

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Coal-fired power plants would be forced to capture smokestack emissions or shut down under a rule issued Thursday by the Environmental Protection Agency.

New limits on greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel-fired electric plants are the Biden administration’s most ambitious effort yet to roll back planet-warming pollution from the power sector, the nation’s second-largest contributor to climate change. The rules are a key part of President Joe Biden’s pledge to eliminate carbon pollution from the electricity sector by 2035 and economy-wide by 2050.

The rule was among four separate measures targeting coal and natural gas plants that the EPA said would provide “regular certainty” to the power industry and encourage them to make investments to transition “to a clean energy economy.”

The EPA administrator told reporters that the new rules would simultaneously reduce pollution while "supporting the long-term, reliable supply of the electricity needed to power America forward." That's the equivalent of saying that we're going to ensure you maintain a healthy diet by removing half of the food from your refrigerator.

Rising electricity prices are typical because of supply and demand issues along with variations in production expenses. But the government can be the largest driver of such changes. Click through and take a look at this chart from Statista showing fluctuations in energy prices over the past 24 years. You will note that in 2017, the year that Donald Trump took office, energy prices rose 2.7 percent. Over the next three years, they never rose faster than two percent, with a net decrease of 0.1 percent in 2018.  

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Now look at the tail end of the chart covering the years since Joe Biden came into office. The price spikes have been stunning. The price increase was back up to 3.8 in 2021, jumping to a staggering 10.7 percent in 2022. That's the highest rate seen over the entire period, even higher than the spike in 2006 when we ran into significant supply chain problems.

But there are no supply chain issues when it comes to coal. We have an almost limitless supply of it available to mine. The only issue arises when the government either tries to shut down mining or regulates its use to the point where it becomes prohibitively expensive. Put that information in context with this new announcement from the EPA. There is less power on the grid today because of increased reliance on unpredictable sources such as solar and wind. That unpredictability results in the possibility of rolling blackouts and higher costs. Now the Biden administration is seeking to make it more expensive to burn coal by imposing harsher emission standards or taking some of the plants offline. In either case, you either wind up with less power or more expensive power... more likely both. When you open your utility bill this summer, just remember that you were warned what was coming in advance.

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David Strom 8:00 AM | July 25, 2024
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