Tom Jenney, AFP: Fighting for Our Energy Future
This article was originally published in Issue 1, 2016 of American Coal magazine – read the full issue (and past issues) on the ACC website by clicking here.
By Tom Jenney, Americans for Prosperity
Now what? That’s the question many are asking after the U.S. Supreme Court rightly decided to put the brakes on President Obama’s so-called “Clean Power Plan.”
By placing a stay on implementation of the President’s carbon rule, the Court temporarily removed States from the EPA’s regulatory crosshairs. Unfortunately, the Court’s decision to grant a stay does not mean that these potentially devastating carbon regulations are dead in the water.
Challenges to the regulations still have to make their way through the legal system, and there’s no guarantee that the Court will ultimately rule against the EPA. But for now, the stay buys us time. We should use it wisely.
Instead of waiting to see what happens, state leaders should continue taking proactive steps to protect their citizens from the administration’s overreach and the economic harm these regulations will cause. No matter what the Court finally decides in 2017, it doesn’t change the fact that President Obama’s call to reduce carbon emission by an average of 32 percent would have a litany of devastating effects.
The regulations would shutter much of our nation’s coal-fueled power facilities and set the stage for a complete restructuring of the energy grid. Instead of abundant, affordable, and reliable energy sources we use today, the president and his allies want to replace them with very costly alternatives such as wind and solar, which are heavily dependent upon government subsidies.
How much more expensive are the alternatives? A recent study by the Institute for Energy research estimates that replacing an existing coal plant with a wind energy facility is nearly three times more expensive than the existing facility.
Here’s what that means in practice. NERA Economic Consulting projects that at least 40 states would see their electricity prices go up by 10 percent or more every year, and 27 states would see annual increases of over 20 percent.
And then there are the higher prices we’d pay for groceries and everyday goods—all of which require electricity to produce and ship. Under the Obama administration’s rule, hardworking Americans would be forking over hundreds of dollars more every year for the foreseeable future.
An expensive and forced transition like this may be good news to President Obama and his allies, but it’s bad news for families. At the end of the day, everyday people like you and me would end up footing the bill when energy providers and businesses pass off costs associated with the carbon rule. For the millions of people who’ve seen their wages remain stagnant in recent years, this is anything but good news.
That’s especially true for lower-income families who spend a disproportionate amount of their incomes on energy-related costs. A recent study by energy economist Eugene M. Trisko found that families earning less than $30,000 spent approximately 26 percent of their after-tax income on energy costs. For families earning over $50,000, it’s 8 percent. The bottom line is that pushing electricity bills even higher pushes the worst consequences onto those who can least afford it.
We all want a healthy environment, but these costs are simply unacceptable. What the rule’s supporters won’t tell you is that the carbon rule would produce virtually no positive impact on the climate. According to the EPA’s own data, President Obama’s carbon regulations would curb global warming by a mere 0.018 degrees Celsius over the next 84 years.
Moreover, the EPA’s plan would have a very real and terrible impact on communities and hardworking families.
In my home state of Arizona, almost two-fifths of our electricity is produced by coal. It’s vital to many of our communities, especially rural communities, and integral to our way of life.
That’s why my organization, the Arizona chapter of Americans for Prosperity (AFP), began a campaign last year to educate citizens about what’s at stake in the battle against the EPA’s power grab. We are standing up for Arizonans’ right to control their own energy future, and use the electrical power sources that make their lives better—not more expensive and less reliable.
So far, our most moving event took place late last year in Joseph City, a tiny wind-swept town on the high desert, 80 miles east of Flagstaff. Joseph City is home to the Cholla power plant, which has been targeted for termination by the EPA. The plant not only keeps the lights on for thousands of families in Arizona, it also serves as an economic engine for Navajo County—employing 300 people.
About a hundred people showed up at our Joseph City rally, including several local, state and federal government officials. Some of the families at our event had worked at the Cholla plant for three generations. Now they’re looking at having to move away. Everybody told us the same thing: “The EPA’s going to kill this little town.”
Here in Arizona and across the nation, my colleagues and activists with Americans for Prosperity are working to ensure that citizens are protected from destructive changes to the energy system that powers our lives. In addition to encouraging legal challenges to the “Clean Power Plan” in court, we’re urging state lawmakers to ensure that no taxpayer resources are wasted until all the legal issues surrounding the President’s carbon regulations are resolved.
In Arizona, Governor Doug Ducey and Attorney General Mark Brnovich have taken a principled stand against President Obama’s carbon rule, and the majority of members on our State Implementation Plan committee, headed by Senator Gail Griffin, are also opposed.
And we’re not the only ones. There are many other states in which political leaders have taken strong stands.
In addition to some of the encouraging steps we’ve seen at the state level, two branches of the federal government are also pushing back against the EPA’s overreach. Along with the Supreme Court’s stay, the U.S. Senate passed two resolutions late last year to try to halt the EPA’s efforts to implement the carbon rule.
We must continue to urge our elected officials—especially at the state level—to do everything in their power to protect their constituents from this plainly unaffordable federal mandate. Affordable and reliable energy has played a central role in helping our nation prosper. Will we protect it, or will we let it flutter away into the wind?
Tom Jenney is Arizona state director for Americans for Prosperity (https://americansforprosperity.org).