Posts filed under Affordability

Politics of EPA’s Final Rule Don’t Mix With Kitchen Table Issues

This column originally appeared in The Morning Consult on August 20, 2015.

It’s always interesting to watch politicians try to reconcile positions that make soundbites but completely contradict the policies they actually support.

President Obama is one politician guilty of this practice. Elected in large part due to working- and middle-class frustration following the 2008 economic collapse, he constantly harped on narrowing the gap between the rich and poor. Yet seven years later, he seems more concerned with preserving his legacy, putting overreaching action on climate change ahead of Americans’ top priorities and further widening the very gap he promised to shrink.

Let’s take a look at this in action.

The rhetoric: In recent remarks announcing his carbon reduction plan, President Obama said the plan was necessary because “if we want to protect our economy and our security and our children’s health, we’re going to have to do more.”

The reality: President Obama’s plan will result in painful costs for those who can afford it least. It disproportionately affects low-income and minority communities and will significantly burden nearly half of America’s households that on average are bringing home less than $25,000 annually. These families already struggle with rising energy costs; 24 percent of low-income households went without food for at least one day and 37 percent went without medical or dental care in order to pay for energy.

It’s easy to think about the working poor in the abstract, it’s another thing altogether when one must come face-to-face with people and communities, like those in the Navajo Nation, who are already suffering and will only be further hurt by the president’s ill-conceived plan. The Navajo Nation community already scheduled partial shutdowns of its two coal-fired power plants, but the president’s plan is lofty and unrealistic. The final rule calls for a 38 percent reduction, compared to the 6 percent called for in the draft rule. These stringent and unreasonable regulations will almost certainly raise energy prices on the reservation and result in devastating job losses. According to a statement by Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye, “These jobs are extremely difficult to obtain on the nation and are almost irreplaceable. Any negative impacts on the power plants and mines will have a severe and direct effect on the tribal economy.”

That’s reality.


When EPA Can Pick and Choose, We All Lose

How many times have you watched a sporting event and been convinced the referees officiating the game made calls unfairly favoring one team over another? Just as referees are supposed to call games objectively and without bias, government should stay out of the business of picking winners and losers.

In its final carbon rule, however, the Environmental Protection Agency did just that when it imposed on 22 states more stringent emission reduction requirements than originally proposed.

Final Rule Percentage Map_FINAL_08.28.15

All of these states – except Rhode Island which has no coal-fired electricity generation – rely on coal to maintain affordable electricity prices. The collective average retail electricity price for the 21 coal-reliant “biggest loser” states was 12 percent below the national average in 2014. In contrast, Rhode Island’s electricity price was 49 percent above the national average.

EPA’s picking and choosing amounts to a big loss for consumers in all states forced to reduce CO2 emissions, but it hits the “biggest loser” states especially hard. Rising energy costs and declining family incomes are already straining the budgets of America’s lower- and middle-income families. Households with pre-tax annual incomes below $50,000, representing 48 percent of the nation’s households, already spend 17 percent of their after-tax income on energy costs. Many of these families are forced to make tough choices when their energy bill arrives each month. EPA’s carbon rule makes those decisions that much more difficult.

EPA’s pursuit of its illegal plan follows a dangerous trend of government agencies picking winners and losers in the energy marketplace. No matter where you live, this amounts to the makings of something much worse than just a bad call. When government is allowed to pick and choose, we all lose.


Growing Up With Coal: Hillary Clinton and Coal Country

President Obama’s tireless pursuit of his climate legacy is well-timed with the 2016 election cycle, especially when it comes to Hillary Clinton and how she is addressing the impact Obama’s carbon regulations will have on coal communities.

During her 2008 run, Clinton proudly touted her loose ties to coal country, emphasizing America’s need for coal and the crucial role clean coal technology will play in our energy future. In the wake of the president’s final carbon plan, however, Clinton now speaks of coal in the “past tense.” Reporters say she is walking a fine line between supporting the interests of voters in coal-producing states and appeasing environmentalists and donors aligned with Obama’s plan.

As someone with strong ties to coal country, I’m not “ready” for Hillary’s pseudo-support of the region and the hard working Americans who live there.

When Clinton expressed her support of President Obama’s carbon regulations, she was no longer walking a fine line – in fact, she crossed it. By promising to defend and build upon the costly and illegal plan, Clinton will place the “everyday Americans” she purports to champion in the crosshairs, raising energy costs and destroying jobs for families in coal communities.

Clinton would do well to cease with her “past tense” rhetoric, as coal currently helps support 700,000 jobs and provides nearly 40 percent of our nation’s electricity. The coal industry is very much a part of America’s present and is key to meeting our growing energy needs in the future, but by supporting the president’s plan, Clinton is turning her back on all of those it employs. Like the President, it’s well past time she prioritizes the families she claims to fight for over the support of elitist environmentalist activists she seeks.


Hold On To Your Piggy Bank If EPA Gets Its Way

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy sent a clear message to consumers this month – your piggy bank won’t get in the way of the agency’s illegal pursuit to regulate carbon emissions.

McCarthy claimed that EPA’s carbon emissions rule is “a win all around.”

Really? Setting aside the fact that legislatures, governors and attorneys general representing 32 states have expressed opposition to EPA’s approach, McCarthy’s comments completely ignore the challenges facing the 59 million low- and middle-income Americans who already spend 17 percent of their budget on energy.

Declining real household incomes, coupled with increased energy prices, are burdening family budgets for millions of low- and middle-income Americans. With wages continuing to stagnate, consumers are now facing the shuttering of hundreds of power plants and are expected to do without tens of thousands of megawatts of coal-generated electricity.

EPA’s answer? Force utilities and consumers to accept less reliable sources of electricity. By forcing these rules on the American public, EPA is making energy costs less affordable for our most vulnerable citizens and will ultimately put our economy at risk.

At a time when we have access to safe and reliable coal and our air has never been cleaner, it is tragic that families still have to decide whether they should keep the lights on or put food on the table.

These concerns are not falling on deaf ears. Recent polling conducted for our organization by Morning Consult reveals significant concern by consumers over how attitudes change when respondents are brought up to speed on the expected cost implications of the rule. Specifically, respondents are unlikely to support the rule if it squeezes the middle class, leads to job losses or increases household energy costs. These are the facts Administrator McCarthy would rather not share with the American public.

We expect the consequences of EPA’s carbon regulation will be severe: causing energy prices to soar, disproportionately affecting impoverished communities and using fewer sources of reliable energy. As the rule becomes available to the public, we will continue to report on economic implications of EPA’s regulatory overreach.

We can’t afford to let this expensive, illegal rule go into effect and we hope you will join us in fighting EPA’s latest regulatory overreach.


EPA Outdoes Itself with Final Carbon Plan, Consumers Pay the Price

When it comes to bureaucratic overreach, the Environmental Protection Agency just took the proverbial cake when issuing its final rule regulating carbon dioxide emissions from power plants. In doing so, EPA usurped the authority of virtually every state in the nation, while unleashing both sky-high energy cost increases for consumers and irreversible damage to the reliability of America’s electric grid.

EPA’s final rule is the most expensive ever imposed on the electric power sector. According to analysis of the proposed rule conducted by NERA Economic Consulting, consumers will see double-digit electricity rate increases in 43 states if the plan is implemented. These increases will be particularly devastating for the 59 million low- and middle-income families who may be forced to choose to keep the lights on or food on the table.

How else does the final rule affect America?

  • The nation’s electricity grid will be jeopardized. Nearly 20 percent of the U.S. coal fleet is currently scheduled to retire, largely due to recent EPA policies. Once coal plants go offline, they cannot be brought back online to generate electricity during times of greatest demand. As a result, America’s grid, which is not prepared to operate on renewable energy sources, would require an estimated $2 trillion in upgrades by 2030.
  • Perhaps the biggest blow of all, EPA’s carbon regulations will have virtually no effect on its stated purpose: climate change. At best, the rule will reduce atmospheric CO2 concentrations by less than one-half of one percent, global average temperature by less than 2/100th of a degree and sea level rise by the thickness of three sheets of paper – all at a cost few can afford.

Because EPA deliberately misinterpreted the Clean Air Act, this illegal rule engendered the opposition of elected and environmental officials from 32 states and legal experts. In fact, President Obama’s former law professor, renowned constitutional law scholar Laurence Tribe, likened the regulation to “burning the Constitution.”

ACCCE-2015-Jul-31-Facebook-1B

Mike Duncan, president and CEO of the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, said it best today: “This rule fails across the board, but most troubling is that it fails the millions of families and businesses who rely on affordable electricity to help them keep food on the table and the lights on.”

We will continue to fight until this illegal takeover of America’s energy system is overturned by the courts. Stay tuned for updates on how America’s Power is making sure electricity remains affordable for all Americans.


America’s Real Moral Obligation: Protecting Our Most Vulnerable Communities

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.


Sharing Your Story on Affordable Power

In America, affordable power has many different meanings. For our nation as a whole, it means continued economic growth by allowing our factories and businesses to reinvest in operations and create new job opportunities. For the American people, affordable power means more room in household budgets, allowing us to reinvest in our lives and create better opportunities for our families.

Everyone has a story about the role affordable power plays in fueling each and every day. With upcoming regulations from the Environmental Protection Agency threatening America’s access to affordable electricity, it’s time these stories were told.

By visiting www.AmericasPower.org/Share-Your-Story, you can join the movement to protect low-cost electricity by explaining what affordable power means to you. We’ve already heard from hundreds of supporters from across the country. For some, affordable energy means more food on the dinner table each night. For others, it means more money to save for a college education or a much needed family vacation.

Share Your Story

Our partners Regan Smith, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., and Kelley Earnhardt Miller have even shared their own stories about the role affordable power from coal has played in their family history and lives as small business owners.

The fact of the matter is, money matters and Americans would rather spend it on improving their lives – not on unnecessarily high power bills. By raising your voice about the importance of low-cost electricity from coal, you can help keep your extra dollars right where you want and where they are most needed.

Join the movement and share what affordable power means to you by visiting our site. You may see your story featured on our Facebook page in the near future.


The Truth Behind EPA’s Energy Policy

When someone criticizes the Environmental Protection Agency, the normal response nowadays is a retort along the lines of, “What did Mother Nature ever do to you?” or “So, you hate puppies and all things good, then?” Yes, I may be exaggerating, but don’t miss my overall point: Americans should feel free, and indeed obligated, to analyze and criticize the actions of federal government agencies. Since our tax dollars fund these massive institutions, it should be expected that we monitor their policies and initiatives, and EPA is no exception.

For the past several years, EPA has targeted domestic energy industries, particularly those producing fossil fuels, under the guise that doing so will significantly thwart climate change and produce a stronger economy. The coal industry in particular has been pinpointed by such EPA policies, which have been cited as a factor in the closure of 62,000 megawatts of electric generating capacity (393 coal units) in 36 states as of June 18. Entire communities have been devastated by these closures, forcing state officials to cope with weakened regional economies and increased unemployment. Hard-working Americans have seen their way of life destroyed for the sake of EPA’s politically fashionable and hastily implemented agenda.

Unfortunately, these irresponsible practices continue to persist in the form of additional, burdensome regulations. What does this trend actually mean for the environment? Will more layoffs, plant shutdowns and intentional economic dilapidation add up to a greener planet? EPA’s proposed carbon regulations, the centerpiece of its climate change program, would reduce sea level rise by a mere 1/100th of an inch – the equivalent of three sheets of paper! From an economic standpoint, the effects are even less inspiring; economic analysis reveals the costs to comply with the plan could total $366 billion, or more, in today’s dollars. Consumers will ultimately foot the bill for these rising costs, which include double-digit electricity price increases in 43 states. Consider the amount of irreversible economic damage these regulations will cause compared to their practically nonexistent environmental achievement and ask yourself, “isn’t there a better way?”

America’s coal industry has undergone vast and impressive improvements to use coal more cleanly and efficiently than ever before. Emissions of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and particulate matter from coal-fueled power plants have been reduced by approximately 90 percent over the period of 1970-2014. Meanwhile, the industry continues to provide jobs to over 700,000 hard-working Americans and pump revenue and ingenuity into our national economy. As America’s most expansive electricity source, coal provides reliable and affordable energy to families and businesses across the country. States benefit as well; those that generate the majority of their electricity from coal pay on average 11 percent less than the national average.

If EPA wants to make a true, lasting difference in the well-being of our national and global environment, stifling entrepreneurship and hindering families is not the right approach. Instead, incentivize existing industries to develop and utilize cleaner technologies. Encourage responsible growth so businesses can more easily contribute to scientific research and innovation. The American people, and their more manageable power bills, will thank you.