State Views: New federal coal rules risk Wisconsin jobs

Comments Comments Print Print
Eric Bott
Saturday, September 28, 2013

On Sept. 20, the federal Environmental Protection Agency proposed the first national limits on carbon pollution from new coal-fired power plants. These eventually will lead to limits on emissions from existing plants.

The crackdown will strike at the heart of the Wisconsin economy, cost our families jobs and drive up electric bills. It's a war on coal, and Wisconsin's families will be collateral damage to a policy that only provides miniscule environmental improvements. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy unveiled the rules.

Wisconsin relies on coal for more than 60 percent of its electricity. Manufacturing drives Wisconsin's economy. We are dependent on affordable energy to compete in a global marketplace. Increase the price of electricity generated by coal, and you don't just make life more difficult for Wisconsin's citizens; you make doing business a lot harder for Wisconsin's job creators.

President Barack Obama's Climate Action Plan, or “War on Coal,” as one of his chief science advisors dubs it, will dramatically increase the price of energy in this country. One doesn't have to take our word for it. The president has said so himself: “Under my plan of a cap-and-trade system, electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket.”

Obama could not get his cap-and-trade plan through the Democratic-controlled U.S. Senate, and now he is resorting to regulatory fiat to achieve his objective of cracking down on coal.

The EPA's announcement of the New Source Performance Standards for coal power plants isn't exactly cap-and-trade, but it will have the same effect—higher energy prices, fewer jobs.

Even proponents of the war on coal admit the standards will not have a significant impact on global CO2 levels or temperatures. Again, look to the administration's own description of the regulation: “EPA projects that this proposed rule will result in negligible CO2 emission changes, quantified benefits, and costs by 2022 [emphasis added].”

Just to be clear about what's going on here, the EPA is proposing a rule that will cost thousands of American jobs and lead to double-digit increases in our electric bills to achieve a benefit that the agency describes in its own words as “negligible.” And just how trivial is “negligible?”

Well, based on assumptions in the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Assessment Reports, if Americans were to turn off all the lights, lock the factory gates, and give up driving altogether, global temperatures would fall about 0.08C by 2050. That would be negligible.

What the EPA is proposing to do here is indescribably less impactful than that. At best the regulation can be described as symbolic. The question that we then have to ask ourselves is, at what cost are we willing to send the world a symbolic message that America cares about climate change? Ten thousand jobs? One hundred thousand? Five hundred thousand? These are the stakes.

Eric Bott is environmental policy director for Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce. Founded in 1911, WMC is the state's chamber of commerce and largest business trade association. It represents more than 3,500 employers of every size and from every sector of the economy. Sidney H. Bliss, publisher of The Gazette, is on the WMC Board of Directors. Readers can contact Bott at ebott@wmc.org.

Comments Comments Print Print