According to the Federal Register, on Dec. 7, 2009, the Environmental Protection Agency “found” that current and projected concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere threaten the public health and welfare of current and future generations. Unfortunately, this finding and the EPA’s subsequent action threaten the health and welfare of current and future generations of Georgians far more than greenhouse gases do.
The EPA declares the goal of its clean-power plan is to cut “carbon pollution” from the power sector by 30 percent from 2005 levels. When the agency starts with referring to carbon emissions as carbon “pollution,” it demonstrates a slanted — not science-based — agenda. Carbon is not pollution. We exhale it. It’s contained in all living organisms, forms the basis for organic molecules and is, in fact, the second-most-abundant element in the human body, accounting for 18 percent of our body weight.
According to the Federal Register, President Barack Obama’s order “specifically directs EPA to build on state leadership, provide flexibility and take advantage of a wide range of energy sources and technologies towards building a cleaner power sector.”
Unfortunately, the flexibility the EPA is offering Georgia is akin to letting a condemned man choose his method of execution: One way or another, it’s the end. The EPA has offered no alternatives to this expensive, climate-change-agenda action.
It would require Georgia utilities to cut emissions by an additional 44 percent by 2030 at existing plants. The EPA expects this to be done by converting to alternative sources of energy and by energy conservation/efficiency. But the EPA won’t credit Georgia’s utilities for embracing carbon-free energy by building the first nuclear units since Three Mile Island. The EPA’s goal is also to “shrink electricity bills roughly 8 percent by increasing energy efficiency and reducing demand in the electricity system.” Reducing energy demand leaves the utilities further lacking the revenue they need for the efficiencies the government wants.
In the Federal Register, the EPA said, “At this time we do not have any estimates regarding the benefits and costs of this action, but we do expect it to be a significant regulatory action with annual effects on the economy exceeding $100 million.”
• In the rule, the EPA projects that, in 2030, “the significant reductions in the harmful carbon pollution and in other air pollution, to which this rule would lead, would result in net climate and health benefits of $48 billion to $82 billion.”
• In the overview, the benefits climb to $55 billion to $93 billion in 2030, including avoiding 2,700 to 6,600 premature deaths and 140,000 to 150,000 asthma attacks in children.
We never want our children to suffer, especially not if their asthma attacks are caused by polluting power plants. So these numbers are important for two reasons.
First, this nation deserves a credible approach that yields tangible results.
Second, as taxpayers, we deserve justification of the finan-cial costs and claimed benefits.
And those caveats are based on these statements: Then-EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson told Congress in 2009 that U.S. action alone will not impact global carbon-emissions levels; that this was “part of an overall strategy that is positioning the United States for leadership in an international discussion.”
Meanwhile, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for 21st Century Energy predicts this will cost America’s economy over $50 billion a year between now and 2030.
As for using this action to reduce asthma attacks and fatalities: The EPA has highlighted the improvements in air quality over the past 30 years, despite the increase in population, the economy and vehicles miles traveled. So if outdoor pollution is the problem, why is it that asthma rates have risen over the past 30 years, particularly among minorities and children ages 5 to 14? Why are asthma prevalence and deaths climbing among lower-income and minority families?
If the EPA is needlessly placing burdensome regulations on energy companies to curb carbon emissions, those costs will be passed through to consumers and hurt those very families with lower incomes — the families who struggle with children with asthma — taking away money that can be used to improve their quality of life.
Georgia’s utilities are diversifying their energy sources to accommodate those willing to pay for renewable alternatives and reduced emissions. Businesses are operating more efficiently and energy intensively. Targeting Georgia utilities for carbon emissions from coal-fired plants in which this abundant domestic product is used responsibly is not only wrong, it’s unethical. Coal and fossil fuels are used at home in an environmentally responsible way, unlike many places abroad. And even as this state’s energy output and demands have increased, the utilities have reduced emissions.