With the increasingly likelihood that Obama's health care law will be struck down in court or repealed next Congress, the administration has been working hard to cement another dubious legacy: the destruction of the coal industry.
Obama's war on coal is stirring a lot of anger in parts of the country like West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Ohio that have long relied on coal as an engine of prosperity. But little of that anger has been directed at the biggest funder of the War on Coal: the natural gas industry, which stands to reap big rewards from the destruction of coal-fired power plants - given the regulatory barriers to nuclear power and the lack of any other real, commercially viable alternatives.
The lynchpin of the War on Coal is the so-called Utility Maximum Achievable Control Technology (UMACT) rule. The rule was a product of Sierra Club litigation and requires expensive control technology retrofits at coal-fired power plants, raising electricity prices nearly 20 percent.
The cost, according to EPA's own low-ball estimate, is $10 billion per year. A more realistic analysis from National Economic Research Associates found compliance costs of $21 billion per year, with 183,000 lost jobs per year.
It's all pain and no gain; except for the natural gas industry, which stands to reap enormous rewards from the forced conversion of coal-fired power plants to natural gas. That's probably why between 2007 and 2010, Chesapeake CEO Aubrey McClendon donated more than $25 million to the Sierra Club for its "Beyond Coal" campaign, which included the lawsuit resulting in the UMACT rule.
A more recent EPA rule following on the heels of UMACT is explicit in forcing power-plant fuel switching from coal to natural gas. It's the Greenhouse Gas New Source Performance Standards (NSPS), the latest installment in the Obama administration's effort to act as if cap-and-trade had passed by transforming the 1970 Clean Air Act into a global warming law. (This is despite the fact that in 1970 Al Gore hadn't even invented the Internet yet, let alone global warming.)
Under the proposed NSPS, coal-fired power plants are instructed that in order to comply with the new emissions standard of 1000 tons of CO2 per megawatt of power generated, they must convert to natural gas. Not nuclear. Not even wind and solar that Obama claims to love. Natural gas.
Phil Kerpen is president of American Commitment, a columnist on Fox News Opinion, chairman of the Internet Freedom Coalition, and author of the 2011 book Democracy Denied.
American Commitment is dedicated to restoring and protecting America’s core commitment to free markets, economic growth, Constitutionally-limited government, property rights, and individual freedom.
Washingtonian magazine named Mr. Kerpen to their "Guest List" in 2008 and The Hill newspaper named Mr. Kerpen a "Top Grassroots Lobbyist" in 2011.
Mr. Kerpen's op-eds have run in newspapers across the country and he is a frequent radio and television commentator on economic growth issues.
Prior to joining American Commitment, Mr. Kerpen served as vice president for policy at Americans for Prosperity. Mr. Kerpen has also previously worked as an analyst and researcher for the Free Enterprise Fund, the Club for Growth, and the Cato Institute.
A native of Brooklyn, N.Y., Mr. Kerpen currently resides in Washington, D.C. with his wife Joanna and their daughter Lilly.
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