Obama's Mistaken Mission against Emissions

Posted: Aug 01, 2013 12:01 AM

Like Don Quixote tilting at windmills, President Obama is on a mission. With the Environmental Protection Agency as his sidekick, he is launching  an all-out offensive to drastically cut carbon dioxide emissions.

His weapon of choice is the alarmism that dominates the national climate-change dialogue. According to the President’s June 25 speech at Georgetown University, warming is to blame for contradictory disasters, including droughts and heavy rains as well as forest fires and flooded crops. In his view, there is no longer a question whether the planet is warming, but whether we “will have the courage to act before it’s too late.”

The problem with the President’s anti-carbon fervor is that several scientists disagree with his climate assessment. In a recent Wall Street Journalcolumn, sixteen of the world’s most renowned environmental scientistswrote that the world has not warmed “for more than a decade,” indicating “that computer models have greatly exaggerated how much warming additional CO2 can cause.” Further they warn, "there is no compelling scientific argument for drastic action to 'decarbonize' the world's economy."

Other scientists also say the costs of further reducing air pollution often outweigh the benefits. The United States has cut air toxics by as much as96 percent since 1980, and additional reductions can be prohibitively damaging to the economy.

The EPA’s plan to tighten ground-level ozone standards was delayed by the White House a couple of years ago because it would have destroyed an estimated 7.3 million U.S. jobs and led to compliance costs of more than $1 trillion. A more recent rule aimed at reducing mercury emissions from power plants is expected to cost $10 billion by 2015 but will generate only $6 million in benefits.

But these inconvenient facts aren’t hindering the President’s climate campaign. He has found a way to get around the cost-benefit problem by slipping a little noticed increase in the “social cost of carbon” into aregulation on microwave ovens, raising the government’s estimate for carbon from $23.80 per ton to $38.00 per ton in 2015.  

The Administration did not allow public comment on the carbon-cost change. Rather it buried the new cost estimate on page 409 in Appendix 16A in a technical support document. Why elevate carbon’s cost under the radar? Because the higher cost of carbon will make environmental rules appear more cost-effective in cost-benefit analyses, justify a raft of new anti-carbon regulations, and true to Candidate Obama’s 2008 pledge, help “make electricity rates necessarily skyrocket.” 

One of the President’s key carbon-combatting initiatives that could be helped by the new carbon-cost figure is the so-called War on Coal which could have a major impact on family budgets and the economy. A new Heritage Foundation study found it would raise electricity costs by 20 percent, destroy 500,000 jobs, and reduce the average American family’s income by $1,000 per year from 2015-2030. It also would sharply raise the cost of natural gas because it would become the new fuel-of-choice for power generators. As a result, the manufacturing renaissance made possible by abundant and affordable U.S. natural gas supplies would be cut short.

The War on Coal also will have little impact on carbon emissions. China, the world’s largest carbon emitter, now accounts for 47 percent of the world’s coal consumption and has no plans to cut back. While the leader of the free world moves forward with a unilateral carbon reduction plan, China patiently waits for the opportunity to replace the United States as an economic superpower.

President Obama says he wants to reduce carbon emissions “for our children, and our children’s children.” But reckless regulations would slow job creation, harm the economy, reduce U.S. competitiveness, and hinder the next generations’ opportunities to experience the American Dream.

American humorist and author Mark Twain once said, “Facts are stubborn things, but statistics are pliable.” In his zeal to save the planet, President Obama seems to be ignoring the facts and has changed the statistics to fit his political agenda. No matter how he calculates the value of combating climate change, it will pale in comparison to the damage.