11.04.2013 1

EPA Regulations: Browning out America’s future

anti-epaBy Tom Toth

In the modern world, where energy flows, commerce and prosperity follows. The economic and industrial greatness behind the United States is built on the back of an infrastructure that makes massive amounts of energy accessible and affordable. Coal is a indispensible pillar of that infrastructure.

Since becoming an economic powerhouse, the United States has consistently relied upon coal as an abundant, reliable source of energy. According to the Institute for Energy Research, coal-burning power plants make up 37 percent of all electric energy generation in the United States. There is enough naturally-resting coal in the United States to power the nation for over 500 years at current energy consumption rates. America’s coal resources more than double the amount of natural coal found in the world’s second-largest repository nation, Russia. Coal offers the U.S. a great strategic advantage in the international marketplace.

On January 17, 2008, then-Senator Barack Obama held a press conference outlining his desires for the future of energy regulations. When questioned about his intended regulatory burden on the coal industry, Obama quipped, “if somebody wants to build a coal-powered plant, they can. It’s just that it’s going to bankrupt them because they’re going to be charged a huge sum for all that greenhouse gas that’s being emitted.” He made it clear that his ideas for environmental preservation took precedent over economic growth and those who rely on inexpensive energy.

From the Oval Office Obama kept his promise, utilizing all of the executive regulatory resources at his disposal through the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to apply as much pressure on coal-powered energy as possible. On September 20, 2013, the EPA issued a major rule restricting the amount of CO2 emissions allowed from new power plants.This regulation virtually removes the economic possibility for the future development of new coal plants in the U.S. Strict emission regulations on current plants remain to be formally announced by the EPA.

One hundred thirty-eight coal plants have already shut down since Obama took office, eliminating nearly 10 percent of coal-powered energy generating capacity. Two hundred seven more have announced closure over the next decade due to prohibitive EPA regulations. Before any further plant closures are announced and new regulations designed by the EPA, the United States will lose 32 percent of its coal-fired plants due directly to the EPA’s presidential task to decommission the coal industry.

Energy demand is growing in the United States. The U.S. Energy Information Administration anticipates energy demands increasing at a rate of about 1 percent per year until 2040. Energy sector expert Lawrence J. Makovich, PhD speculates even more dramatic growth in demand, as high as 1.7 percent annually. As the nation’s economy continues to recover from the 2009 recession, any economic advance must have a reliable energy foundation from which to develop.

President Obama has often pointed to wind and solar options to replace coal in the future. Conceding this very well may be the case in this distant future, neither option is viable to sustain the United States as an immediate replacement for coal. In 2012, wind and solar made up 3.6 percent of net electricity generation in the U.S.; less than a tenth of coal’s generating capacity. Further, none of this takes into account practical inconsistencies inherent within wind and solar energy sources: solar panels only absorb sunrays with the sun shines and wind turbines only spin when the wind blows. Coal plants are fundamentally reliable.

Economic growth necessitates energy reliability. If the economy ever begins growing faster than the anemic rates of the post-recession years, the nation’s power grid must maintain the capacity to support that growth and offer inexpensive energy. The policies of the President’s regulatory state and the EPA are undermining sustainable reliability in exchange for historically unreliable options and untraceable dreams of reversing global climate trends. These damaging policies toward coal are laying the groundwork for stunted economic growth and a dark, expensive energy future.

Tom Toth is the Social Media Director for Americans for Limited Government.

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