U.S. EPA: Playing Fast and Loose with Health and Welfare
An eye-opening case can be made that Obama Administration’s EPA is threatening our energy, economy, health, welfare, justice, and civil rights. A stiff charge, indeed, but one that needs to be examined in due depth this Memorial Day and throughout the year.
EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson says we face grave threats to human health, welfare and justice. She’s absolutely right. However, the dangers are not due to factory or power plant emissions, or supposed effects of “dangerous manmade global warming.”
They are the result of policies and regulations that her EPA is imposing in the name of preventing climate change and other hypothetical and exaggerated environmental problems. It is those government actions that are the gravest threat to Americans’ health, welfare, and pursuit of happiness and justice.
By hyper-regulating carbon dioxide, soot, mercury, “cross-state air pollution” from sources hundreds of miles away, and other air and water emissions, EPA intends to force numerous coal-fired power plants to shut down years before their productive life is over; sharply reduce emissions from cars, factories, refineries and other facilities, regardless of the costs; and block the construction of new coal-fired power plants, because none will be able to slash their carbon dioxide emissions to half of what average coal-fired plants now emit, without employing expensive (and nonexistent) CO2 capture and storage technologies.
EPA has also issued 588 pages of rules for hydraulic fracturing for critically needed oil and natural gas, while the Obama Administration has vetoed the Keystone XL pipeline and made 95% of all publicly owned (but government controlled) lands and resources unavailable for leasing, exploration, drilling and mining.
These actions reflect President Obama’s campaign promise to “bankrupt any company that tries to build a new coal-fired power plant,” replace hydrocarbons with heavily subsidized solar, wind and biofuel energy, make energy prices “necessarily skyrocket,” advance crony-corporatism – and “fundamentally transform” America’s constitutional, legal, energy, economic and social structure.
Energy is the lifeblood of our nation’s economy, jobs, living standards and civil rights progress. Anything that affects energy availability, reliability and price affects every aspect of our lives. These federal diktats put bureaucrats and activists in charge of our entire economy – seriously impairing our health and welfare.
Mirage of Climate-Change Mitigation
Moreover, the anti-hydrocarbon global warming “solutions” the Obama Administration is imposing will bring no real world benefits – even assuming carbon dioxide actually drives climate change. That’s largely because China, India and other developing countries are increasing their use of coal for electricity generation, and thus their CO2 emissions – far beyond our ability to reduce U.S. emissions. These nations rightly refuse to sacrifice economic growth and poverty eradication on the altar of climate alarmism.
Even worse, the health, welfare and environmental justice benefits that EPA claims will result from its regulations are equally exaggerated and illusory. They exist only in the same dishonest computer-generated virtual reality that concocted its alleged climate change, health and environmental cataclysms, and in junk-science analyses that can best be described as borderline fraud.
Mandates All Over
Implementing EPA’s regulatory agenda will inflict severe economic dislocations and send shock waves through America’s factories, farmlands and families. Far from improving our health and welfare – they will make our economy, unemployment, living standards, health and welfare even worse.
EPA’s new automobile mileage standards alone will result in thousands of additional serious injuries and deaths every year, as cars are further downsized to meet its arbitrary 54.5 mpg requirements.
Obama’s anti-coal and anti-fracking rules will severely impact electricity generation, reliability and prices; factory, office and hospital operations and budgets; American industries’ competitiveness in global markets; employment, hiring and layoffs; and the well-being of families and entire communities.
This is especially true for areas that depend on mining and manufacturing – and the 26 states where coal-based power generation keeps electricity rates at half of what they are in states with the least coal use and toughest renewable energy mandates (6-9 cents versus 13-17 cents per kilowatt hour) – it will be all pain, for no gain.
According to the Wall Street Journal, a White House letter to House Speaker John Boehner inadvertently acknowledged that EPA alone is still working on new regulations that the agency itself calculates will impose $105 billion in additional regulatory burdens and compliance costs. Win or lose in November, the Administration will likely impose these and other postponed rules after the elections. We, our children and grandchildren will pay for them in countless ways.
Coal Plant Costs
Utilities will have to spend $130 billion to retrofit or replace older coal-fired units, says energy analyst Roger Bezdek – and another $30 billion a year for operations, maintenance and extra fuel for energy-intensive scrubbers and other equipment, to generate increasingly expensive electricity.
Duke Energy’s new $3.3 billion coal gasification and “carbon dioxide capture” power plant will increase rates for its Indiana customers by some 15% the next two years. Hospitals, factories, shopping malls and school districts will have to pay an extra $150,000 a year in operating expenses for each million dollars in annual electricity bills. That’s four or five entry-level jobs that won’t be created or preserved.
Nationwide, 319 coal-fueled power plants totaling 42,895 megawatts (13% of the nation’s coal fleet and enough for 40 million homes and small businesses) are already slated to close, the Sierra Club joyfully proclaimed. Illinois families and businesses could pay 20% more for electricity by 2014, the Chicago Tribune reports. Chicago public schools may have to find an extra $2.7 million a year to keep the lights and heat on and computers running.
Oil Refining Costs
Higher electricity prices will further strain refineries already struggling with soaring electricity costs and EPA’s sulfur and other regulations, restrictions on refinery upgrades and construction, constraints on moving crude oil to East Coast refineries, and other compliance costs – all for dubious environmental or health benefits. Three East Coast refineries recently closed, costing thousands of jobs and causing the Department of Energy to warn that pump prices are likely to soar even higher in Eastern states.
The refineries had supplied nearly half of the region’s gasoline, diesel and jet fuel, but had lost $1 billion over three years and spent $1.3 billion trying to comply with stricter EPA rules that Sunoco and ConocoPhillips feared will only “grow exponentially under the Obama administration,” energy analyst Larry Bell reports. Their concerns were buttressed by widely cited remarks by Dallas EPA regional administrator Al Armendariz, who said his (and presumably the agency’s) philosophy was to single out individual companies and punish them “as hard as you can,” to scare others into submission, much as the Romans used to find a few people in a town and “crucify them,” so that the town would be “really easy to manage for the next few years.”
The importance of refineries can hardly be overstated. Not only do they supply petrochemical feedstocks for plastics, pharmaceuticals and cosmetics, and fuel for cars, trucks, ships and airplanes to transport people, food and products. They also create thousands of jobs and generate billions of dollars in payrolls and taxes. In Texas alone, the refinery and chemicals industry adds 73,000 employees, $6 billion in salaries and $105 billion annually to the economy.
As hydraulic fracturing produces vast new supplies of lower cost oil and gas for the industry, Texas, Pennsylvania and other states with refineries and petrochemical plants could see a manufacturing rebirth – unless EPA and environmentalist anti-fracking campaigns curtail supplies and drive prices up again. And despite industry and Obama Administration claims to the contrary, ethanol and other biofuels from corn, switchgrass, algae and pond scum cannot possibly make up the difference.
The importance of refineries can hardly be overstated. Not only do they supply petrochemical feedstocks for plastics, pharmaceuticals and cosmetics, and fuel for cars, trucks, ships and airplanes to transport the people, food and products that are the foundation of our wealth, health, freedoms and progress. They also create thousands of jobs and generate billions of dollars in payrolls and taxes, making better lives possible for workers, families and communities. In Texas alone, the refinery and chemicals industry adds 73,000 employees, $6 billion in salaries and $105 billion annually to the economy.
The Jobs Problem
When we include discouraged workers who have given up looking for jobs, and people who have been forced to work fewer hours or at temporary jobs, our unemployment rate is a whopping 19 percent – and double that for black and Hispanic young people. America’s labor force participation rate is at a 30-year low. Our nation’s 2011 economic growth rate was a dismal 1.7 percent.
Well over a million U.S. workers age 55 and older have now been out of work for 27 weeks or more. Not only do prospects plummet for re-employment of older workers. The longer they are unemployed, the more they are disconnected from society, the further their living standards fall, the more their physical and emotional well-being deteriorates, and the more likely they are to die prematurely.
The cumulative effect is that families have even less money to buy food, pay the rent or mortgage, repair the car or house, save for college and retirement, take a vacation – and keep people comfortable (and alive) on frigid winter nights and sweltering summer afternoons. Workers lose jobs. Health and welfare, family relationships, future prospects and psychological well-being plummet. Because they spend the highest proportion of their incomes on energy, poor and minority families suffer disproportionately.
The EPA and White House regulatory agenda, regulatory onslaught, and horse-blinder definition of health, welfare, and justice ignore these realities. It is also very likely that this intolerable situation will only get worse. In fact, the only welfare EPA’s rules will ensure is the expansion of our welfare rolls, unemployment lines and already record-setting food stamp programs.
Meanwhile, EPA gives billions of taxpayer dollars to activist groups, to advance their agendas and dominate our media and hearings with false or misleading information about the costs and benefits of its programs.
Worst of all, our Congress and courts have completely abdicated their obligations to provide oversight and control of this dictatorial agency and the Obama Administration. If this is the hope, change and future we can look “forward” to, our nation’s health, well-being and justice will be rolled backward.
It is time for pushback from the heartland of America, one consumer and one citizen and one voter at a time.
Paul Driessen is senior policy advisor for the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow (www.CFACT.org) and Congress of Racial Equality, and author of Eco-Imperialism: Green power – Black death.