As Congress considers legislation to curtail the Environmental Protection Agency’s power to regulate greenhouse gases, EPA Assistant Administrator Gina McCarthy struck a tone of defiance rather than conciliation at the 14th Annual Energy, Utility, and Environment Conference in Phoenix, Arizona.
McCarthy vowed to push forward with carbon dioxide restrictions proposed by EPA and ratchet up the pressure with additional restrictions in the near future.
EPA Seeks Energy Transformation
The end goal, according to McCarthy at the late-January conference, is not a mere tweaking of current energy use and energy sources, but rather a fundamental overhaul of the nation’s production and use of energy . EPA is ready, willing, and able to drive this overhaul, McCarthy emphasized.
“We must transform the power sector in a way that meets the needs of the 21st century,” argued McCarthy, who repeatedly used the word “transform” to describe EPA’s goal for the nation’s energy use.
Alleged Health Risks
McCarthy justified EPA restricting carbon dioxide emissions by claminig carbon dioxide endangers public health and welfare.
However, EPA’s determination carbon dioxide is a public health threat defied multiple scientific studies showing a warming climate saves lives and reduces health impairments and mortality. U.S. Department of the Interior analyst Indur Goklany, for example, published a study in 201 showing cold weather kills far more people in the United States each year than heat. In addition, federal mortality statistics show U.S. death rates rise by more than 10 percent each day in winter months compared to summer months. The difference is approximately 800 more U.S. deaths each winter day compared to each summer day.
Cost Concerns Ridiculed
Responding to concerns about the economic damage often caused by EPA regulations, McCarthy struck an equally defiant tone.
“Concerns about cost and reliability always arise when we seek to overhaul industry,” said McCarthy, dismissing cost concerns.
“Industry always overestimates the costs” associated with new regulations, yet they are always proven wrong, McCarthy asserted.
McCarthy said EPA’s carbon dioxide restrictions would add 1 percent to 2 percent to electricity costs by 2014. She did not provide cost estimates beyond 2014, when EPA restrictions and imposed costs will become more severe.
These additional costs, McCarthy asserted, are not a serious concern because electricity is currently inexpensive.
“We already have relatively low and declining electricity costs,” McCarthy asserted.
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), however, the average retail price of electricity has risen 50 percent since 1999. Electricity prices, according to EIA, have not declined on a year-to-year basis since 2001-2002.
James M. Taylor ([email protected]) is managing editor of Environment & Climate News.