This column originally appeared in The Morning Consult on July 17, 2015.
The Environmental Protection Agency relies on a predictable playbook to bolster public support for its agenda. Using hyperbolic rhetoric to tug at Americans’ heartstrings, the agency routinely fails to disclose important considerations like costs and consequences. Case in point is a recent blog post by EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy calling on our “moral obligation” to support radical climate change initiatives like her agency’s proposed plan to regulate carbon emissions from power plants and efforts to limit fossil fuel development abroad. Not surprisingly, the blog post makes no mention of the negative impacts of these regulations.
While Administrator McCarthy is correct to assert America has a moral obligation to help struggling people around the globe, it is not in the way that she calls for it. Our real moral obligation is to protect vulnerable communities, including hard-working families, businesses and our economy, from EPA’s proposed plan. Overreaching environmental policies, like those her agency is pursuing as part of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, will lead to a decrease in affordable electricity, adding up to economic hardships for our nation’s most vulnerable communities and for billions of people around the globe.
The climate policies Administrator McCarthy claims we have a moral obligation to support will phase out electricity from fossil fuels, including coal. Considering the fact that coal-based generation alone accounts for nearly 40 percent of our electricity supply in the United States and nearly 41 percent around the world, the costs and consequences are substantial.
American households, particularly those of vulnerable groups like minorities and the elderly, face rising electricity costs and are spending a substantial portion of their incomes just to keep the power on. These households already struggling to make ends meet will see these costs piled on top of the 17 percent of their take-home pay they already spend on energy needs.
Energy poverty is arguably one of the most significant human crises we face. In fact, it is estimated that one in seven people globally lack adequate access to electricity. Far too many families go without the electricity required for basic needs like clean water, safe heating and cooking, and medical equipment. By working to limit fossil fuel use abroad, EPA will prevent developing nations from experiencing the benefits that accompany low-cost, reliable electricity including economic development, the adaption of new technologies and advanced health care.
The climate movement is grasping at straws by attempting to supplant fossil fuels with costlier, less reliable fuel sources like wind and solar. Simply put, these resources cannot replace affordable, dependable fuel sources like coal. Renewables aren’t able to provide around-the-clock power generation because the sun doesn’t always shine and the wind doesn’t always blow. Likewise, EPA and its allies like to ignore the fossil fuel industry’s tremendous advancements in championing clean energy technologies, which are reducing emissions and ensuring these abundant resources can meet ever-growing energy demand in a cleaner and more efficient manner than ever before.
It appears Administrator McCarthy has no intention of scaling back her agency’s climate change initiatives, which are nothing more than a last-ditch legacy-building effort for President Obama. Our real moral obligation is protecting our own community and the communities that need our help most urgently from the serious threats these regulations pose domestically and internationally. To fulfill this moral obligation, we must stand united in fighting EPA’s dangerous agenda.