American Electric Power Chairman Michael Morris announced last week that his company would be forced to close five coal-fired power plants, spend an additional $8 billion refitting other plants, and lose 6,000 megawatts of its coal-generated capacity if the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency follows through with its latest proposed regulation of coal power plants. That’s just fine with President Barack Obama and Lisa Jackson, his appointment as EPA administrator. Their goal is to put utilities out of the coal-fired generation business.
Since the White House’s signature environmental policy, cap and trade, died in the Democrat-dominated 111th Congress in 2010, Obama has sought to use the Clean Air Act to do by bureaucratic decree what he could not achieve through the legislative process — get Americans to stop using fossil fuels to generate the energy our society must have to function on a daily basis.
Despite the fact the mercury pollution levels have been decreasing worldwide for two decades, the EPA’s proposed Mercury and Air Toxics Standards rule would force power companies to install costly new mercury-scrubbing equipment on existing coal power plants. The EPA says this will reduce mercury emissions from coal plants by 91 percent. But the EPA’s own Regulatory Impact Analysis also concedes that the new regulation will lead to “new lower levels of consumption as a result of higher market prices.” That is bureaucratese for saying Americans will have a lower standard of living because they will have to pay more for energy.
This is exactly what Obama promised his energy policies would do. In January 2008 he said, “Under my plan of a cap and trade system, electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket. … Coal power plants, natural gas, whatever the plants were, whatever the industry was, they would have to retrofit their operations. That will cost money. They will pass that money on to consumers.” Sure enough, the Chicago Tribune reports that Illinois consumers could see their electricity bills jump an estimated 40 to 60 percent in the next few years if the proposed EPA rule is implemented.
Not to worry, according to the EPA, which claims the proposed regulation will create 30,000 new jobs: “Regulated firms hire workers to operate and maintain pollution controls. Once the equipment is installed, regulated firms hire workers to operate and maintain the pollution control equipment.”
But if more regulation creates jobs, why has unemployment during Obama’s tenure in the White House stubbornly remained above 9 percent? In the real world, the only thing red tape produces is additional pages in the Federal Register. If Obama wants to know why unemployment is still so high, he should start by questioning his EPA’s assumption that more regulations lead to more jobs.