We need to put pressure on Congress to reassert authority.
If you think your electric bill is too high now, what would you think about paying 80 percent more? How about three times as much?
That's what is likely in our future if the Environmental Protection Agency's proposed new rules on carbon emissions take effect. The proposal mandates a 30 percent decrease in carbon emissions at fossil-fuel burning plants by 2030.
Indiana Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Kevin Brinegar, citing an Institute for 21st Century Energy study, says the regulations will result “in a whopping $51 billion in economic losses” through 2030 and result in 224,000 Americans losing their jobs and consumers paying $289 million more for electricity. And all we'd get for that tremendous cost is a less-than-2 percent reduction of carbon emissions, not a whole lot in the totality of pollution spewed by countries like China and India.
Indiana will be hit even harder than most states. For one thing, this is, per capita, the No. 1 manufacturing state in the union. For another, 80 percent of our energy comes from coal, compared with 45 percent for the country as a whole.
Granted, we should consider those dire numbers somewhat exaggerated, since they are based on a study by an industry-friendly group. But we should also take with a grain of salt the bland assurances of the EPA that the plan is “tailored to each state's circumstances” and the opinion of the Indiana Sierra Club that “the goal is doable.” There is a lot of “see what you want to see” on this issue.
But the truth is that whatever the effects, this is a devastatingly drastic move with little legal or constitutional justification. The Obama administration has tried unsuccessfully to get cap-and-trade legislation through Congress that would accomplish the same thing. So it is letting the EPA just do it by using the 1970s-era Clean Air Act. The law has long been used to regulate pollutants like soot, mercury and lead. It has not been used for carbon emissions, so the Supreme Court should tell regulators they are overstepping their bounds. The way recent rulings have gone, however, we should not count on that.
Any government regulation should carefully balance benefits and costs. When the potential costs greatly outweigh the potential benefits, it is best to tread lightly. Alas, treading lightly is not this administration's strong suit.
Congress needs to step in and reassert its authority. The Republican majority in the House seems inclined to do that, so we need to put as much pressure as we can on Senate Democrats. Attention, Sen. Joe Donnelly, Indiana needs your support here.