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Obama Puts Rural America In The Cross Hairs

Monday, the president announced his Clean Power Plan, which is aimed to tackle the phantom threat of global warming. In doing so, the president has put rural America, black Americans, Hispanic Americans,  seniors, and those on fixed-income in the crosshairs. First, let’s go to what Obama said:


Now, not everyone here is a scientist -- (laughter) -- but some of you are among the best scientists in the world. And what you and your colleagues have been showing us for years now is that human activities are changing the climate in dangerous ways. Levels of carbon dioxide, which heats up our atmosphere, are higher than they’ve been in 800,000 years; 2014 was the planet’s warmest year on record. And we've been setting a lot of records in terms of warmest years over the last decade. One year doesn’t make a trend, but 14 of the 15 warmest years on record have fallen within the first 15 years of this century.

Climate change is no longer just about the future that we're predicting for our children or our grandchildren; it's about the reality that we're living with every day, right now.

The Pentagon says that climate change poses immediate risks to our national security [I guess the CIA didn’t get the memo].


With this Clean Power Plan, by 2030, carbon pollution from our power plants will be 32 percent lower than it was a decade ago. And the nerdier way to say that is that we’ll be keeping 870 million tons of carbon dioxide pollution out of our atmosphere. (Applause.) The simpler, layman’s way of saying that is it’s like cutting every ounce of emission due to electricity from 108 million American homes. Or it's the equivalent of taking 166 million cars off the road.

By 2030, we will reduce premature deaths from power plant emissions by nearly 90 percent -- and thanks to this plan, there will be 90,000 fewer asthma attacks among our children each year. (Applause.) And by combining this with greater investment in our booming clean energy sector, and smarter investments in energy efficiency, and by working with the world to achieve a climate agreement by the end of this year, we can do more to slow, and maybe even eventually stop, the carbon pollution that’s doing so much harm to our climate.


Well, NASA is only 38 percent certain that 2014 was the warmest year, our air quality has never been better, according to the EPA’s own studies; and the price tag for this will be millions of jobs. The Clean Power Plan aims to cut these greenhouse gas emissions by nearly 30 percent from 2005 levels. The Obama team knows this is tough. They know they’re going to face political obstacles in trying to get this plan implemented. Hence, the emphasis that health, specifically children’s health, will improve. The narrative will be "if you’re against this, you’re anti-science and you want children to die." Nevertheless, it doesn’t negate the fact that rural America will be devastated (E&E News):

Rural America stands to lose more than urban America if U.S. EPA's Clean Power Plan drives power prices up, according to a paper released today by the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association.

The trade group for rural electricity nonprofits argued in its report that rural economies are more sensitive to rate fluctuations because they tend to run on energy-intensive industries like agriculture and manufacturing, rather than the service and financial sectors that tend to locate in urban areas.

Businesses in what the paper dubbed "Co-op Nation" -- areas of the country that are served by rural co-ops because they are too sparsely populated to entice for-profit utilities -- required 34 percent more power than industry elsewhere, the report said.

This means that if electricity prices climb 10 percent or 25 percent between now and 2040 -- as the paper suggests they will, in part because of the rule -- that would have a proportionally larger impact on rural regions than it would on urban areas. Those losses would trickle down to local businesses, reducing the tax base and impacting public-sector jobs, it said.

The study holds that a 10 percent increase in electricity prices would mean 1.2 million jobs lost in 2021 nationwide, with nearly 500,000 of those located in rural communities.


Lisa Johnson, CEO and general manager of Seminole Electric Cooperative in Florida, said after her own meeting with OMB and other administration staff earlier this month that the rule as proposed would force 27 of her state's 30 coal-fired power plants to shutter by 2020 to meet a tough interim target of 794 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt-hour.


What about fixed-income seniors? Obama is going to toss them off the fiscal cliff, according to a study conducted by The 60 Plus Association. Sixty-three percent of America’s 65+ households have gross annual incomes of less than $50,000. In fact, on average, seniors 65+ and older make 41 percent less than the median $57,353 of younger households, according to the study. They also represent almost a quarter of the 116 million households in the country, and almost two-thirds of these households had a pre-tax income of just $24,842, or $2,070 per month before state and federal taxes. In short, a surge in electrical prices will leave these folks open to financial disaster. As for blacks and Hispanics, Clean Power will show no mercy; the plan is projected to gut millions of jobs for them.

In July, White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough made no qualms about that fact that the power plant rule was going to be stronger. To no one’s surprise, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has been advocating states to reject the new rules, setting up another policy battle between GOP governors and the president. The Wall Street Journal described the Clean Power Plan as “regulation without representation,” and, of course, this new agenda favors green energy initiatives that are inefficient, won’t be able to keep up with our energy needs, and above all a complete waste of time and money.

Rarely do American Presidents display the raw willfulness that President Obama did Monday in rolling out his plan to reorganize the economy in the name of climate change. Without a vote in Congress or even much public debate, Mr. Obama is using his last 18 months to dictate U.S. energy choices for the next 20 or 30 years. This abuse of power is regulation without representation.

The so-called Clean Power Plan commands states to cut carbon emissions by 32% (from 2005 levels) by 2030. This final mandate is 9% steeper than the draft the Environmental Protection Agency issued in June 2014. The damage to growth, consumer incomes and U.S. competitiveness will be immense—assuming the rule isn’t tossed by the courts or rescinded by the next Administration.


Coal-fired power will be the first to be shot, but the EPA is targeting all sources of carbon energy. As coal plants have retired amid seven years of EPA assault, natural gas recently eclipsed coal as the dominant source of electric power. This cleaner-burning gas surge has led to the cheapest and fastest emissions plunge in history, but the EPA isn’t satisfied.

Thus the new rule’s central planning favors green energy sources like wind and solar. The plan expands their quotas and funding, while punishing states that are insufficiently enthusiastic. The EPA estimates renewables will make up 28% of U.S. electric capacity by 2030, up from less than 5% today.


As for the home front, the point is to bull-rush states into making permanent changes to their energy systems. The investments and lead times in new power plants and transmission lines on this scale are generational. Yet state compliance plans are due in September 2016, and most of the carbon reductions must be complete by 2022.

The White House and EPA know they are distorting the law beyond recognition and that this rule will be litigated for years. But they figure that if they can intimidate the states into enacting as much change as fast as possible, a legal defeat won’t matter because the outcome will be a fait accompli.


Oh, and as Morgan Chalfant of the Washington Free Beacon wrote Tuesday, the optics of this whole things are muddied when it’s been discovered that environmentalists and EPA officials have met in secret for years over these new carbon emission rules.  Additionally, the carbon tax debate could be resurrected thanks to Clean Power Plan.

Exit Question: Knowing the detrimental economic impact this clean power agenda will have on the Hispanic community, why do they support this plan? Do you think these numbers will shift as more information comes forward?

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