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Snake oil in the Clean Power Plan
Benita Dodd is vice president of the Georgia Public Policy Foundation, - photo by File photo

“The most terrifying words in the English language are: ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help,’” Ronald Reagan famously said. After new energy regulations were announced this week, Americans should ask government, “With friends like you, who needs enemies?”

This nation has never been sold a bigger, costlier bill of goods than the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan to reduce carbon emissions, which the administration has fervently tried to relabel as carbon “pollution.”

President Barack Obama said, “With this Clean Power Plan, by 2030, carbon pollution from our power plants will be 32 percent lower than it was a decade ago. And the nerdier way to say that is that we’ll be keeping 870 million tons of carbon-dioxide pollution out of our atmosphere. The simpler, layman’s way of saying that is, it’s like cutting every ounce of emission due to electricity from 108 million American homes. Or it’s the equivalent of taking 166 million cars off the road. By 2030, we will reduce premature deaths from power-plant emissions by nearly 90 percent. And, thanks to this plan, there will be 90,000 fewer asthma attacks among our children each year.”

By 2030, Georgia must cut carbon-dioxide emissions 34.4 percent, from its baseline of 1,598 pounds per megawatt hour to 1,049 pounds. The president gave states two extra years and “flexibility” to implement their plans. As the Georgia Public Policy Foundation noted last week, the Clean Power Plan is akin to letting a condemned man choose his method of execution. One way or another, it’s the end.

Over industry protests, Obama denied that his plan would kill jobs, singling out the solar industry as creating jobs “10 times faster than the rest of the economy.” Sadly, Georgia’s own MAGE solar company failure stands in stark contrast.

Obama recounted how he arrived in Los Angeles (“so full of smog”) at age 18 and struggled to breathe when he decided to take a run. He conveniently forgot to mention his smoking habit.

He talked about the Cuyahoga River fire. But Jonathan Adler pointed out in The Washington Post, “The reality is that the 1969 Cuyahoga fire was not a symbol of how bad conditions on the nation’s rivers could become, but how bad they had once been. The 1969 fire was not the first time an industrial river in the United States had caught on fire, but the last.”

No reasonable American wants to return to smoggy days and fiery rivers; most would be willing to “sacrifice” if it would help the environment. But EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy admitted to Congress that the plan, intended to mitigate climate change, will barely move the needle on global temperatures. She defended it by saying, “The value of this rule is not measured in that way. It is measured in showing strong domestic action, which can actually trigger global action to address what’s a necessary action. …”

This example America sets is expected to reduce global temperatures by 0.01 degree Celsius. The price? The president maintains that the average American will see a drop of $85 in annual power bills. The American Action Forum warns that it will cost the U.S. economy $2.5 trillion, close at least 66 coal-fired plants and eliminate 125,800 jobs. But that’s just the beginning of the fallout.

Consumer prices will increase. The cost of doing business will increase, causing more job losses (or shrinking job creation). More businesses will move off-shore, and Americans will deal with the price volatility of natural gas to replace the plentiful, reliable fuel source of coal.

Coal will still be used, of course — just not in this country, where environmental responsibility is expected and demanded. As our sister think tank, the Texas Public Policy Foundation points out, the total amount of carbon-dioxide emissions the Environmental Protection Agency hopes to reduce across the country by 2030 would be emitted by China in less than two weeks.

When the foundation testified before the EPA in Atlanta in 2014, we pointed out the plan’s claimed reduction in children’s asthma goes against the evidence. Worse, it will hurt upward mobility for low-income families (where asthma is more prevalent) by providing fewer job opportunities and less money available to improve their quality of life and health.

Expect lengthy, costly litigation as states battle the EPA bureaucracy on these unreasonable regulations. American taxpayers will see their wallets cleaned out by the Clean Power Plan. And no matter who wins in court, the climate will go on.

Dodd is vice president of the Georgia Public Policy Foundation, an independent think tank that proposes market-oriented approaches to public policy to improve the lives of Georgians.

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