News: CJ Exclusives

Clean Power Plan Regulations Called Costly, Ineffective

Policy analyst Melchior says rules would hike energy prices while making insignificant change in global temperatures

Jillian Melchior discusses the impacts of the federal Clean Power Plan at a recent presentation in Cary. (CJ photo by Dan Way)
Jillian Melchior discusses the impacts of the federal Clean Power Plan at a recent presentation in Cary. (CJ photo by Dan Way)

During his March 11 campaign stop in Raleigh, Democratic presidential hopeful U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, D-Vt., warned of planetary devastation from climate change unless the world shifts from fossil fuel-based energy to renewable forms of power.

Meanwhile, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency chief Gina McCarthy has said her agency would continue advancing the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan — requiring states to impose costly emission-reducing regulatory programs — even though the U.S. Supreme Court issued a stay halting the plan after North Carolina and more than two dozen other states sued to stop it.

Jillian Melchior, a fellow at the Colorado-based Steamboat Institute and the Independent Women’s Forum in Washington, D.C., studies environmental regulatory issues. She said the left is “doing something that is deeply unscientific” by claiming the science is settled on man-caused global warming.

“We are adopting environmental regulations that are symbolic at best, that are rooted in dubious science, rooted in alarmism, and don’t actually have a practical effect” on global temperatures, Melchior said.

Scientific studies of the impact of the Clean Power Plan show temperatures will decline “literally 0.02 [degrees] Fahrenheit by 2100,” Melchior said. “This is not going to make a difference for climate change.”

That would reduce sea level rise by “the equivalent of two sheets of paper,” Melchior said.

The United States accounts for only 5 percent of global carbon-dioxide emissions. If America got rid of its cars, completely shut off electricity, and “goes back to the Dark Ages,” the global temperature would drop just 0.15 degrees, Melchior said.

Melchior offered her comments on March 4 at the Civitas Institute’s Conservative Leadership Conference in Cary.

One private sector study estimates the energy regulations would cost consumers as much as $39 billion annually, she said. Consumers in most states will see double-digit hikes in electricity bills, and the poor would be harmed the most.

She cited studies showing energy now consumes about a third of the pre-tax incomes of families earning $30,000 a year or less. Black families spend about 50 percent more of their take-home pay on energy than their white counterparts do. Latino families spend about 10 percent more than white families.

She said a “mind-blowing” National Energy Assistance Directors Association study concluded that to pay higher power bills, between 20 and 25 percent of low-income families would give up medical or dental care, 25 percent would give up food for a day or more, and that one of five households reported a family member becoming ill because the family could not afford to heat its home during cold weather or cool it “during extreme heat.”

Obama says the Clean Power Plan will inspire other countries to lower their carbon emissions, and called the Paris Climate Conference a resounding success.

But Melchior pointed out that other countries are not bound by restrictions in the Paris accord, and it has no enforcement mechanism. The United States and China also have committed to a pact with China under which the U.S. would reduce carbon emissions by 32 percent between now and 2030, but China made no promise to restrict its emissions until 2030, at which point it would stop increasing them.

“That’s another way of saying they’re going to keep growing for the next 15 years as we cut back fairly severely,” Melchior said.

China approved 155 new coal power plants “in the last year alone,” which will produce the equivalent of 40 percent of U.S. energy capacity, said Melchior. “They’re growing fast. They’re getting dirty fast.”

Meanwhile, U.S. air quality is at its cleanest levels of the past 20 years because of greater use of natural gas, not renewable power, Melchior said. “Nonetheless, the EPA wants to put a preference on renewable energy,” and use the Clean Power Plan to shut down coal- and possibly natural gas-fueled power plants.

With the growth of hydraulic fracturing processes, “We now produce more oil than Saudi Arabia. We now produce more natural gas than Russia,” Melchior said. That gives the U.S. “a huge foreign policy advantage,” a manufacturing boom, and cheaper food and consumer goods.

Even so, the Obama administration’s expansion of regulations on fossil fuels has made renewable energy seem inexpensive by comparison, Melchior said.

“We know about the subsidizing of green enterprises, and how many of them are politically connected,” she said, noting that without taxpayer subsidies, “many of them right off the bat go bust.”