Congressional hearings held earlier this month shed a lot of light on the Obama administration’s proposed Clean Power Plan. What we’ve learned is unsettling. The CPP would require states to cut emissions from power-generating plants by 32 percent (from 2005 levels) by 2030.
But the goals set out by the plan - and the plan itself - are unrealistic. Thomas Lindsay of the Texas Public Policy Foundation recently outlined just how.
First, he contends, the EPA hasn’t given states enough time to come up with plans to implement the CPP. Those implementation plans are due in 2016.
“For example, the Texas legislature meets biennially, with its next session starting in January 2017,” Lindsay notes. “Even with an extension, that will be too late for the legislature to give state agencies sufficient guidelines for implementing a plan.”
Lindsay quotes a Texas official who testified before Congress. Bryan Shaw, chairman of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, told House members that the EPA’s claims of economic benefits from the plan are based on flawed assumptions.
For example, the EPA claims that people will see health benefits from a reduction in greenhouse gases. But as Shaw points out, the EPA shouldn’t “claim a health benefit from reduction in a pollutant in areas where the EPA has already determined that the current concentration of the pollutant is adequate to protect human health.”
But worst of all, Lindsay says, is the fact that all the pain (and higher prices for power) Texas will suffer won’t have any real effect on climate change.
“Even the EPA’s claimed environmental benefits don’t come from an actual impact on climate change or sea levels, but instead are based on the administration’s estimate of the ‘social cost of carbon,’ as well as a claim that the plan will give the U.S. a stronger bargaining position at the climate summit in December,” Lindsay says.
In fact, “the agency’s analysis indicates that the Clean Power Plan will lower global temperatures by just 0.018 degrees Celsius, will reduce the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide by less than one-half of 1 percent, and will reduce rising sea levels by one hundredth of an inch. These effects are not promised to take place until the year 2100.”
That’s in a best-case scenario. But those slight improvements in climate forecasts come at a very, very high cost.
“According to a study issued by National Economic Research Associates, the Clean Power Plan will cause ‘double-digit electricity rate increases’ in 43 states, with a total national cost that could reach $479 billion over 15 years,” Lindsay adds. “Our country’s poorest and most vulnerable members will be least able to afford the higher bills. Critics of the Clean Power Plan point to Europe, which is already experiencing energy poverty, forcing low-income families and senior citizens on fixed incomes to choose either food or heating.”
A total of 17 states so far - including Texas - have announced they’ll file suit against the EPA over the Clean Power Plan.
As the congressional hearing showed, it’s all pain and little gain.