Posts filed under National Affairs

President Obama’s Record: Bypassing Congress Time & Time Again

President Obama has become famous for his track record of bypassing Congress while in office, especially when it comes to achieving his regulatory agenda. According to the Washington Times, the president has worked around lawmakers 40 times this year, and a White House official recently said that the president would not let Congress stand in the way of any progress to be made. Is this how our forefathers envisioned our democratic process working?

Unfortunately, the president’s 2014 crusade of executive orders is far from over. As the administration prepares for climate talks in Paris next year, the president is looking to make a deal that would persuade other nations to reduce their carbon footprint. This informal treaty, which would commit other countries to meeting certain reduction goals at the risk of public embarrassment, would not have to be ratified by the Senate (where it would likely fail). Countries such as China and India refuse to sign such an agreement as it would hinder their economic development, and other national leaders have come out against the proposal. Recently, Prime Ministers Tony Abbott of Australia and Stephen Harper of Canada stated that they will not be following Obama’s lead, refusing to take actions that would deliberately harm jobs and economic growth.

I am beginning to wonder when the American people will come before the president’s pride during his last years in office. Why do we need to pay the price for years to come just so the president can fulfill his own environmental legacy? President Obama can put us on a better track for the future by withdrawing these harmful carbon regulations and sparing his constituents the financial burden—especially when the only gain is a reduction in sea level by less than five sheets of paper.


Advocating for America’s Power: Week 3

I am back again, energy enthusiasts, and as promised have brought more information. I took a look last week at international reactions to EPA’s new carbon regulations, with a specific focus on Canada and Australia. This week my fellow intern, Joe Singh, and I analyze another area of the globe. Joe has a background in economic policy analysis and is helping ACCCE research the global coal market. As I mentioned last week, EPA’s costly new plan would have virtually no effect on climate change, with less than 1 percent in carbon reductions. The Obama Administration understands this, but believes that if they lead by example carbon-emitting nations like China and India will follow. In his research, Joe points out that assuming these nations will follow our lead is contrary to the growing coal consumption in both these nations.

China, the world’s largest coal consumer with one of the fastest growing economies, has said it will set emission limits. Make no mistake, however, China is not exactly following the administration’s approach. The EPA set state by state targets that would reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from the electric sector by 30 percent by 2030. China, on the other hand, has instead adopted an emissions intensity target. This emissions intensity target would limit the amount of COemitted for every dollar of economic activity in China, on average. The reason for using emissions intensity rather than absolute emissions is to allow economic growth, which China wishes to maintain. In Joe’s research, he cites an Australian National University report which found that if China maintains its economic growth, even with a significant emissions intensity target in place, COemissions will still grow. Put simply, even if China can meet the targets it sets, its continued economic growth will still result in increased COemissions – not less.

The results of future international negotiations on climate change are uncertain. One can look to the past, however, to provide clues for potential future actions.  In two recent international climate negotiations, agreements could not be reached because of defiance conflict between the developing and developed world. The United States did not ratify the Kyoto Protocol, because it exempted developing nations, like China, from reducing their emissions.  Chinese officials claimed that it was “unfair to expect impoverished people in…developing countries to cut back on energy consumption, which is not even sufficient to meet their basic living conditions.”  China’s resistance to a binding agreement arose again during the Copenhagen conference, which occurred during Obama’s first term in 2009.  In a study available on EPA’s website, Western officials blamed the failure of this conference on China’s opposition to binding global emissions reductions.  This opposition was traced once again to China’s view that emissions reductions are robbing developing nations of their right to industrialize. Considering this climate impasse happened only five years ago, it’s unclear if Chinese willingness to reach a binding agreement has changed.  All of this makes me wonder whether the administration’s plan to reduce COemissions will be enough to overcome a history of failed climate negotiations with China.


EPA Carbon Rule Based on Questionable Calculations of Energy Demand

Lately, we’ve been taking a hard look at some claims made in the roll-out of the Environmental Protection Agency’s carbon regulation for existing power plants. An Opinion Editorial I penned was featured in The Hill today, refuting six unsubstantiated claims and questionable facts. We’ve seen the misleading claims and want to make sure the reality of America’s energy situation doesn’t fall to the wayside. A recent Wall Street Journal article, “What’s the Real Cost of the EPA’s Emissions Cap?” demonstrates the faulty logic and fuzzy math employed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in setting standards for its greenhouse gas rule.

EPA based its calculations on one fundamentally erroneous assumption: that Americans will use less energy in the future. Conventional wisdom, not to mention the government’s own data, however, tells a very different story. As the piece says, the federal Energy Information Administration (EIA) recently forecast that electricity demand will, in fact, grow 0.9% every year until 2040.

But even if EIA’s data isn’t convincing on its own, conventional wisdom reaffirms that EPA’s postulation falls flat on its face. Simply put, the world in which we live demands more energy. Every day, Americans are using more mobile devices; more electric cars are driving on U.S. roads; and our population continues to rise. And it is low-cost, reliable baseload power from coal that supports economic and societal growth.

EPA is hedging its bets on largely unproven energy efficiency programs that pose enormous cost and implementation challenges. States that have experimented with such measures have yielded, on the whole, less-than-stellar results. The agency’s proposal sets pie-in-the-sky expectations for these programs that, in turn, inflate calculations across the board and set the stage for wholly unrealistic and unachievable standards.

While EPA’s rule clearly misses the mark on many counts, I fear that troubling revelations such as EPA’s calculating method will be unearthed as we more fully probe the measure. EPA needs to get back to reality, readjust its standards using more grounded data and stop misleading the American people about the true costs of its rule.

 


EPA’s Proposed Carbon Emissions Rule Has Real Consequences

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently proposed  its long-awaited rule aimed at reducing carbon emissions from America’s existing power plants. If the proposed rule is implemented, it will have enormous and far-reaching costs. By cutting down our use of coal-based power, the Obama Administration and the EPA are burdening our families, businesses and local communities with a less reliable and more costly energy future.

So, what are some of the consequences of the rule? Over the past two weeks, we’ve heard from an array of individuals and organizations who understand how far-reaching the consequences of EPA’s carbon emissions rule will truly be:

It will put electric cooperatives across the country at risk.

National Rural Electric Cooperative Association CEO Jo Ann Emerson: “The potential costs of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) greenhouse gas regulations threaten every household and business on a budget, not to mention the ability of electric cooperatives to continue providing reliable and affordable energy.”

It will raise prices for families and business owners.

National Black Chamber Of Commerce President & CEO Harry Alford: “Black business owners have already faced rising energy costs over the past few years, a reality that has undermined their competitiveness in the marketplace. We hope that EPA’s new regulation does not set the stage for even greater energy costs and, instead, helps to foster business growth and job creation in communities across the United States. We will thoroughly examine EPA’s new rule to determine how it stands to impact black businesses and America’s broader economy.”

It will jeopardize America’s competitiveness on the world stage.

National Association of Manufacturers President and CEO Jay Timmons: “As users of one-third of the energy produced in the United States, manufacturers rely on secure and affordable energy to compete in a tough global economy, and recent gains are largely due to the abundance of energy we now enjoy. Today’s proposal from the EPA could singlehandedly eliminate this competitive advantage by removing reliable and abundant sources of energy from our nation’s energy mix. It is a clear indication that the Obama Administration is fundamentally against an ‘all-of-the-above’ energy strategy, and unfortunately, manufacturers are likely to pay the price for this shortsighted policy.

It will encourage an overreliance on one source of energy, eliminating the diverse fuel mix needed to maintain price stability and electric reliability.

Arkansas Rural Electric Cooperatives CEO, Duane Highley: “There were gas plant failures, pipeline freezes and wholesale natural gas supply disruptions. Our nation needs and deserves a diverse energy supply portfolio to keep the lights on. By reducing the amount of coal in our generation mix, prices will go up and reliability could go down.’”

Georgia PSC Commissioner Stan Wise: “These overreaching rules trump state authority, put energy users at risk to future price swings, ignores the investments and progress Georgians have made to improve the environment and are a backdoor attempt to force federal renewable energy mandates.”

 

These are just a few of the millions of Americans who know EPA’s proposal rule to cut carbon emissions  is poor policy with costs that far outweigh the benefits. We look forward to sharing more of these opinions over the coming months and encouraging the EPA to listen closely and drastically change their proposed rule accordingly.


New York Times Article Misses the Mark on EPA Regulations

Just under a month ago, The New York Times ran an article by Coral Davenport, “Keystone Pipeline May Be Big, but This Is Bigger,” that missed the biggest thing of all.

Despite six years of study, President Obama has decided to further delay the Keystone pipeline and has, instead, set his sights on carbon regulations. Now, he is hastily jamming through unworkable rules in order to fulfill his political legacy; rules that will cost consumers billions of dollars, threaten U.S. jobs, and weaken the broader economy.

Interestingly in a different article published the same week, the Times reported on the poverty still plaguing Appalachia, citing the decline of the coal industry as one of the principal reasons. Now, Ms. Davenport’s piece reports that Obama’s EPA rules could shut down 600 more coal plants and put nearly 78,000 miners out of work.

What the Times has failed to do is connect the dots. If things are bad now, how much worse will they become when these rules are enacted? And what exactly is the plan to help the people in these impoverished regions, not to mention the millions of Americans who will pay higher energy costs?

The industry has invested $118 billion in new technologies that have reduced emissions more than 90 percent and it will spend another $27 billion through 2016 to reduce emissions even more. But instead of working with the industry for the benefit of all Americans, President Obama is determined to shut out the lights on working-class families.


Tomorrow: Let Your Voice Be Heard on the Future of Coal

Tomorrow, Friday May 9th, is the last and final day that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is accepting comments on its proposed New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) for coal- and gas-fueled power plants. Once the comment period ends, the debate will certainly continue on this stringent and unprecedented regulation; but the end of the comment period also means that EPA will begin writing its final rule, making your input during the home stretch all the more critical.

In September 2013, the proposed rule for new coal-based power plants was released to cheers from environmentalists and extreme concern on the part of the coal industry, advocates of clean coal technology and consumers. NSPS, as proposed, will place a de facto ban on any new coal-fueled power plant in the United States, effectively halting development of cleaner coal technologies in their tracks. It will also hamper America’s leadership on building advanced new power plants that use our nation’s most abundant energy resource, coal, to generate low-cost electricity.

Since the rule’s initial release, we have seen an outpouring of support from a broad array of stakeholders across the nation. Consumers and businesses know that advanced coal-based power plants are critical to our nation’s energy supply now and will continue to hold the key to a secure energy future.

Advocates for cleaner, more advanced technologies to limit emissions from coal-based power plants have also lamented the rule’s stringent guidelines that require the use of a technology that is far from ready. The regulation would require new power plants to use carbon capture and storage, a process that is in the early stages of development and has not been put to use on a commercial scale. We are continuing to learn about and develop this technology, but experts and industry leaders agree it is not yet ready for “primetime.”

And to make matters worse, we are bracing for the next round of EPA regulations for existing coal-based power plants, set to be released on or before June 1st. Just yesterday, the National Mining Association released an eye-opening poll, which found that 76 percent of Americans are at least somewhat concerned that new EPA regulations will lead directly to higher energy costs.

Coal is our nation’s most affordable, reliable source of electricity, and we must ensure that overreaching EPA regulations do not rob us of this valuable resource, costing us all higher electricity bills, lost jobs and unreliable power in the process. That is why it is so important that we make our voices heard over the next 36 hours before EPA closes the door on discussion of this important issue.

Visit www.EPARegsCostJobs.com today to join us and tell the EPA to protect our economic and energy future.


Protecting Our Electricity Grid

Last week, I penned a response to National Journal’s “Energy Insiders” on the important topic of securing America’s electricity grid. While we certainly must protect our grid from cyber and physical attacks, we must also be concerned about another critical threat to the grid: power outages and electricity shortages due to reliability.

FERC Commissioner Philip Moeller has been vocal recently about these impending energy shortages. At a U.S. Energy Association meeting last week, he warned that the grid will likely stay reliable during mild weather, assuming we don’t experience periods of extreme hot or cold, but this is “not a sound basis of planning,” to hope the thermometer doesn’t tip either direction. This is an important point that should not be lost and something I discussed in my National Journal response.

Here is what I wrote:

 

Grid security has become a hot topic in Washington. Unfortunately, the discussion has focused on just one aspect—cyber security—of a much broader issue. Indeed, there is another security threat to our electric grid that has been downplayed by this administration; a threat that, ironically, has a common-sense and achievable solution.

This past winter brought historically cold temperatures to many parts of the country that resulted in widespread concerns with electric grid reliability. These concerns were well founded as we saw firsthand what happens when politically driven, costly regulations are imposed on coal-based industries that exclude the use of coal from our energy portfolio.

As natural gas price spikes and infrastructure and transport concerns strained the grid, prompting fears of blackouts and brownouts, it is not surprising that utilities turned to coal to ensure the power stayed on. In fact, AEP was running nearly 90 percent of its coal plants currently slated for closure just to help meet demand for power during the coldest days.

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy claims that coal will “play a critical role in a diverse U.S. energy mix for years to come” and also alleges her agency is focused on protecting electric reliability. A recent study from ACCCE, however, projects that 25 to 40 percent of the nation’s coal fleet could be shuttered depending on the stringency of EPA’s forthcoming 111(d) proposal, costing consumers $13 billion to $17 billion per year in higher electricity and natural gas prices.

Administrator McCarthy and others in this administration have so far only offered misleading statements about reliability concerns, maintaining that EPA’s regulations will not impact coal usage and that the agency will work to protect and preserve reliability.

We know these claims to be untrue, as EPA greenhouse gas regulations will impose a de facto ban on new coal-fueled power plants and likely force retirements of existing plants across the country which will, in fact, cause serious reliability issues that still haven’t been addressed by this administration.

Last week, the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources hosted a hearing on grid reliability, but no representative from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) testified about these very real reliability concerns associated with the agency’s regulatory assault on coal.

Some members of the committee, like Senators Manchin and Murkowski, raised concerns about how EPA regulations play into the broader grid security issue. Unfortunately, it seems that this administration is doing all it can to quell such concerns and continue leading America toward an energy policy that wholly disregards cost and reliability consequences.

Diminished electric reliability is certainly a threat to our well-being, to our economy and to our national security. It makes America less competitive, and it puts us all in harms’ way. In order to make headway on protecting grid security, we must have a more comprehensive and candid dialogue about all the looming threats.


New Study Reveals Billions in Costs, Lost Jobs Under NRDC’s Carbon Regulation Proposal

This week, we released a detailed economic analysis of the Natural Resource Defense Council’s (NRDC) carbon regulation proposal, first put forth by NRDC in December 2012 and updated last week.

The newest version of NRDC’s proposal ludicrously asserts that its plan to reduce CO2 emissions from existing power plants would carry no costs at all and would actually spur numerous benefits. Worse yet, the NRDC proposal recommends a system-based approach (also known as “outside-the-fence”) that is essentially a cap-and-trade program. Our analysis, performed by leading research firm the National Economic Research Associates (NERA), clearly demonstrates that NRDC left out some critical facts including the $13 to $17 billion-per-year price tag for consumers and the millions of jobs America stands to lose under its proposed policy.

Our economic analysis further projects the NRDC proposal would cost consumers a total of $116 to $151 billion during the period of 2018-2033. And, retail electricity prices would increase by double digit percentages in as many as 29 states.

Over this same time period, net job losses could total as many as 2.85 million. NRDC projects net job gains in the thousands, but only in the years 2016 and 2020.

NRDC also asserts that gas-fired generation would increase by 2 percent. Our economic analysis found that natural gas-fired generation would increase by 8-16 percent to keep up with demand, while rates would simultaneously increase by as much as 16 percent.

The results of our economic analysis reveal that the NRDC proposal is, in fact, all pain with very little gain. And the proposal’s failure to mention the many potential consequences, like cost increases and job losses, suggests that the group is ignoring reality in order to drum up support for its impractical plan. A more reasonable approach to greenhouse gas regulations would offer more flexibility and would focus on measures that can be taken at power plants to reduce their impact, while maintaining dependable, low-cost, coal-based electricity.

Here at America’s Power, we support an “inside-the-fence,” source-based approach that bases emissions reductions on measures taken at existing power plants. This would include many improvements power plants can make to their facilities that improve efficiency, remove emissions and more. Being able to implement measures at individual generating units is a common sense approach to working with utilities and achieving significant emissions reductions and environmental improvements. Let’s work together to craft a solution that works for our consumers and for America’s energy future.

Join us in asking the EPA to set common sense policies and to protect American jobs today.