Not even Ebenezer Scrooge had the stomach to fire people during the holidays.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), however, plans to move full speed ahead with new regulations on January 2 that will likely cost many Americans their jobs before the New Year’s Eve party hats have even been put away.
In a nutshell, the EPA’s Greenhouse Gas Tailoring Rule will treat emissions from renewable biomass energy the same as emissions from the use of fossil fuels, despite the fact that both policymakers and scientists have long considered biomass emissions to be carbon-neutral due to the life cycle of the forests from which biomass is produced.
This new rule and regulatory uncertainty could spell the end of the biomass energy industry by removing the carbon-neutral status of biomass and, consequently, the biggest incentive to continue investing in it. Recent estimates have shown that biomass generated from forest byproducts could supply as much as 15 percent of the nation’s renewable energy by 2021, yet this will likely never be realized if biomass producers are forced to comply with arbitrary, unfair and unnecessary regulations like those in the Tailoring Rule.
Unfortunately, the Tailoring Rule won’t just disincentivize the use of renewable biomass energy. It will also have widespread effects on our energy options, as well as jobs and the economy.
Forisk Consulting recently released a new study on the economic impact of the Tailoring Rule, which found that the regulations on biomass will result in the loss of over 134 renewable energy projects, up to 26,000 jobs, and $18 billion in capital investment. According to the study’s authors, 23 biomass energy projects have already been placed in limbo due to regulatory uncertainty. In Wisconsin, for example, Xcel Energy Inc. halted plans for a biomass energy plant that would have brought over 100 jobs to Ashland, Wisc., as well as a needed source of domestic power for the entire area. Xcel Energy cited the expected cost increases and regulatory uncertainty as reasons for canceling plans for the plant—and they are likely to be one of many energy companies doing the same.
The negative economic impact will be especially felt in Appalachia and rural parts of the South, the Pacific Northwest, and the Northeast, where biomass energy shows great promise as a source for domestic clean energy and innovative new jobs.
In addition to harming domestic renewable energy development and the economy, the EPA commits a crime that Mr. Scrooge would never commit: wasting money. In President Obama's “stimulus” program alone, the U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Energy have collectively spent more than $100 million of taxpayer money to promote biomass power production.
The new study by Forisk Consulting only further confirms what bipartisan governors, U.S. Senators, and U.S. Representatives, state and local lawmakers, scientists, and forestry industry insiders have been saying all along—that the Tailoring Rule will hurt energy development, jobs, and the economy at a time when we need all three to be thriving.
Even Representative Collin Peterson (D-MN), the outgoing Chair of the House Agriculture, said before the election, “[The EPA is] screwing things up. They’re raising costs for people, they’re raising the price of food, and I don’t think they’re accomplishing anything.”
The intransigent EPA isn’t yet listening to the bipartisan, nationwide outcry against the Tailoring Rule. Perhaps they will finally begin to pay attention to this latest round of hard facts about the impact of their regulations before it’s too late.
Timothy Lee is the director of legal and public affairs at the Center for Individual Freedom, a free-market and constitutional advocacy organization based in Alexandria, Virginia.
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