Obama EPA Prepares Economic Body Blow

Published November 29, 2010

Any hope for a rapid and forceful U.S. economic recovery is taking a punch to the gut under new greenhouse gas restrictions issued by the Obama administration.

The Environmental Protection Agency is making economic malaise a new national priority by forcing power plants, refineries, large industrial operations, and other large, stationary sources of greenhouse gases to pay for the “best available” technology to control greenhouse gas emissions.

This will have literally no effect at all on the world’s temperature, but it will deal a catastrophic blow to the U.S. economy.

EPA is singling out large, stationary sources because they tend to make easy political targets. Tell mom and pop running their small business that they must navigate the nightmare of endless EPA red tape and the ever-present threat of some overzealous environmental pencil-neck shoving a federal lawsuit down their throat, and the nation will revolt in a manner that will make the Democratic Party’s recent electoral beat-down look like a love tap.

But single out Big Bad Power Plants and other large targets that appeal to class-warfare themes and, the theory goes, people will take the new restrictions in stride.

Forcing power plants to purchase and implement the “best available” technology to reduce greenhouse gas emissions every time a plant is built or any kind of significant maintenance or renovations occur, however, means by definition that electricity prices are going to start rising in a manner that will make the economy-shocking energy price spikes during the summer of 2008 seem downright wimpy by comparison.

With EPA forcing them to spend whatever it takes to purchase and implement the most greenhouse-gas restrictive fuels, emissions-trapping devices, and who-knows-what-else expensive technologies to fight a speculative-at-best global warming problem, power plants will have no choice but to pass those costs on to electricity consumers.

The only possible outcome is that electricity prices will rise steadily and painfully for as far into the future as one can see. Mom and pop may not have to answer directly to the self-righteous EPA pencil-neck and all the red-tape, threats, and bullying that overzealous EPA mandates always bring with them, but mom and pop will be seeing EPA suck the life out of their business profitability just as surely as if EPA were regulating them directly.

The same costs, of course, will also be passed down by refineries, large industrial operations, and other significant sources of greenhouse gases. As greenhouse gas compliance costs rise, the price of doing business will rise, and jobs will continue to disappear. This is the stagflation and malaise of the 1970s, except this time it is being implemented by political design and EPA mandate rather than being an avoidable but inadvertent result of foolish economic policies.

A 9.6 percent unemployment rate continues to crush the hopes and dreams of students emerging from college with six-figure student-loan debts and no hope of finding the same beckoning American dream that greeted their parents when they first embarked on their career paths. A near-10 percent unemployment rate is the “new normal,” with the White House telling us this is what economic recovery looks like. If this is recovery, one shudders to think what the next recession will look like.

The economy is already on life support, and the Obama EPA’s new greenhouse gas restrictions will cut off the oxygen tanks, remove the feeder tubes, spike the IVs, and cut off power to the entire hospital for good measure.

Meanwhile, as the Obama EPA forces us to take this economic poison pill, China, India, and other rapidly developing nations remain exempt from greenhouse gas restrictions and continue ramping up their emissions. U.S. greenhouse gas emissions are nearly 10 percent lower than they were in the year 2000, and yet EPA singles us out for economic punishment. China’s emissions, meanwhile, have been growing at nearly 10 percent per year, making any reduction in U.S. emissions entirely meaningless.

But why let the truth get in the way of a good power grab?

James M. Taylor ([email protected]) is senior fellow for environment policy at The Heartland Institute.