The Obama administration has taken its latest step away from the “all-of-the-above” energy strategy the president has professed to support.
The Environmental Protection Agency issued a rule that will limit greenhouse gas emissions from existing power plants. The Obama administration issued a similar rule eight months ago dealing with emissions from new power plants, so this rule was expected. But that doesn’t make it any less onerous — or less destructive to our economy.
The EPA’s approach to greenhouse gas rules will damage our nation’s energy security by taking energy sources off the table. At the same time, it will thwart the ability of manufacturers to innovate and develop new energy technologies.
The development of next-generation power plant technologies is a prime example. Today, coal generates about 40 percent of the country’s electricity, and we have decades worth of coal reserves. The rules, however, would eliminate this abundant resource from our energy mix — unless power plants are able to deploy what’s known as carbon capture and storage technology.
But there is a hitch. Manufacturers of this technology have indicated that it is not yet ready to work on a commercial scale at power plants. Even worse, these new rules may prevent CCS from continued development. Babcock & Wilcox, a manufacturer of CCS technology, has told the EPA that requiring its use now, before it is commercially viable, “will inevitably discourage industry from further investment in R&D ... and in the end will eliminate coal as a future energy option for the U.S.”
With its most recent proposal, the EPA put the nation one giant step further down the path of a less diverse, less reliable and more expensive energy supply. 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. Manufacturers’ recent gains are largely due to the abundance of affordable energy we now enjoy. The EPA’s proposal could single-handedly eliminate this competitive advantage.
It doesn’t have to be this way. The Obama administration chose ideology over balanced regulations and U.S. competitiveness. Instead of considering the economic impact of increasing energy costs for consumers across the country, it issued a rule that will limit fuel choice. Instead of recognizing that other nations will continue to produce greenhouse gases at far greater rates than the United States, it took a unilateral approach that will actually send more production to these countries. In short, the United States will sacrifice its economy while hardly making a dent in global greenhouse gas emissions.
The EPA won’t stop with power plants. While these rules would have a significant, but indirect, impact on manufacturers by raising energy prices, soon the Obama administration will set its sights on us. Manufacturers and other industries stand “next in line” for similar regulations.
In other words, the EPA’s role will expand to once-unthinkable levels. It won’t just be the agency charged with ensuring clean air and water. It will be the regulator of the entire U.S. economy.
Manufacturers and other industries have tried to engage the Obama administration constructively on its destructive environmental agenda with little success so far. But the EPA’s announcement cements President Barack Obama’s legacy, and it’s one that will take our nation’s manufacturers a long time to recover from.
Jay Timmons is president and CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers.