This column was co-authored by Niger Innis
From New York, Washington and Atlanta to Chicago, St. Louis and Dallas, America is baking in a furnace. As millions swelter and gasp, they thank their lucky stars for air-conditioned cars, homes, offices and other places of refuge. And for the reliable, affordable electricity that makes AC possible.
Previous generations weren’t so fortunate. When a record heat wave slammed the nation in July 1936, Midwest temperatures hit 100-107 for a week. With most homes and businesses lacking even fans in this pre-AC era, millions suffered heat prostration. In Wisconsin, 449 died. Nationwide, thousands perished.
Now the EPA and NAACP want to send America back to the “good old days.” Under a perverse notion of “environmental justice,” they are promoting tough new air quality rules that would shut down dozens of coal-fired power plants that make affordable AC possible for millions of poor and minority families.
According to them, coal-based electricity is “racist.” Minorities are more at risk because they often live near “dangerous,” older, more polluting power plants.
There is no excuse for the ridiculous “racism” and “justice” rhetoric, or the way EPA used cherry-picked data and computer models to conjure up health risks and benefits that exist only in virtual worlds. (Visit www.AffordablePowerAlliance.org for details.) Worse, the agency refused to consider the disastrous effects its draconian regulations will impose on families and businesses, due to skyrocketing electricity prices.
EPA’s rules will reduce electricity availability and send costs soaring 12% to 60% by 2015 – especially in the 26 states that depend on coal for 48-98% of their electricity. Families and businesses in those states currently pay less than half as much per kilowatt hour as those in low-coal, high-tax, hyper-regulated states. That means jobs, profits, balanced budgets – and protection against life-threatening heat and cold.
Under EPA/NAACP rules, all that would end. Power plant closures will cause deadly electricity shortages during periods of peak demand. Millions of poor and minority families will be unable to afford air conditioning when electricity is available. Our elderly will be particularly at risk, especially in inner cities, because energy costs hit them disproportionately and they are least able to survive heat and heatstroke.
Bishop Harry Jackson is chairman of the High Impact Leadership Coalition and senior pastor of Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, MD, and co-authored, Personal Faith, Public Policy [FrontLine; March 2008] with Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council.