Just days before the EPA is set to release it’s plan to drastically reduce carbon dioxide emissions from electricity producing engines across America, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce says that the anticipated ambitious pollution-control plan could force more than a third of coal-fired power plants to close, resulting in economic losses of $50 billion a year and the elimination of 224,000 more jobs.
Power plants are the nation’s largest producer of carbon-dioxide, and the rules aimed at clipping the wings of electricity generators will likely be implemented for refineries, steelmakers, and cement plants in the years to come. And, absent an ambitious and expensive re-build, the cost to power the country will go up dramatically, according to the Chamber’s study
Ahead of the President’s announcement, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Natural Resources Defense Council are both releasing studies this week that detail the economic impact of the plan. Naturally, the two agencies disagree on the prospects and the price associated with the administration’s plan.
The plan, according to those who are familiar with it, claims to be a flexible one that will allow individual states the flexibility to find ways to meet the federally mandated emission cuts. Nevertheless, the USCC, historically the largest business lobby in the country, is more than a little concerned with the price tag.
Karen Harbert, president of the USCC’s Institute for 21st Century energy, raised questions about the plan and its effect on power prices. “Utilities will be faced with some very unappealing choices.”
Rates increases are expected to be especially hard on Midwestern States where coal is the fuel of choice. The plan will also be a job killer in coal-producing areas like Wyoming, West Virginia, and Kentucky.
Not only does the anticipated $50 billion cost represents 0.31 percent of the overall U.S. gross domestic product, but it also bodes badly for what remains of America’s competitive edge globally. Ms Harbert said that the coming higher rates for electricity will become “an issue of competitiveness with the rest of the world.”
On the flip side, NRDC is set to release a report on Wednesday showing that the rules could generate hundreds of thousands of jobs and cut health-care costs and power bills.
“The costs are certainly quite modest,” claims Starla Yeh, an NRDC fellow who was involved in the development and analysis of that group’s proposal. Yeh insists that with efficiency programs, “the savings in fuel and maintenance you forgo balances out the costs.” (On paper.)
The critical difference between the two studies seems to be the fact that the Chamber’s model predicts increasing use of electricity and higher costs to go with it, while the NRDC expects a drop in associated costs that is inconsistent with the Chamber’s findings. (The Chamber’s analysis of the NRDC 2012 proposal which was used by the Obama administration in creating their plan, was done by IHS Energy, an independent research firm.)
While upgrading and working to improve emission standards nationwide is a good idea, the question of “climate change” which drives the move to drastically slash the use of coal, science is still unsure that the fluctuations in climate are man-caused. Others point to countries like China where pollution is rampant and changes are not being considered, saying that U.S. sacrifices will do little to improve the global situation but will bring about devastating hardships in American homes and businesses.
To announce such a potentially crippling plan in a slowly recovering economy and during an election year is very brave or, perhaps, very foolish on the part of the White House.