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By: James H. Rust, professor (ret. Georgia Tech) and policy advisor The Heartland Institute
Campaigning in San Francisco during the Democrat Party primaries in January 2008, Presidential Candidate Obama told the San Francisco Chronicle editorial board, “So if somebody wants to build a coal-powered plant they can; it’s just that it will bankrupt them because they’re going to be charged a huge sum for all that greenhouse gas that’s being emitted.” Carbon dioxide from burning coal, and other fossil fuels, is falsely claimed to cause catastrophic climate change (global warming).
Upon election, President Obama tried to keep his promise with the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009, also known as the Waxman-Markey Bill, that narrowly passed the House June 26, 2009, by a vote of 219 to 212. One of the provisions of the act was a cap on greenhouse gas emissions similar to what is used in the European Union.
Unsatisfied with progress of the Waxman-Markey Bill, President Obama issued an executive order October 5, 2009 “FEDERAL LEADERSHIP IN ENVIRONMENTAL, ENERGY, AND ECONOMIC PERFORMANCE” that gave policies toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions for the rest of his term in office. The executive order gave strict guidance for all agencies in the executive branch and their interactions with outside organizations. Detailed information about consequences of this Executive Order is given by the paper “PRESIDENT OBAMA DEMANDS AGREEMENT WITH CLIMATE POLICIES” by Dr. James H. Rust.
After the November 2010 election losses, Democrat Senate leaders told President Obama cap-and-trade was dead. President Obama exclaimed “cap-and-trade was just one way of skinning the cat.” From that point the cat is slowly being skinned by regulations from the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to limit fossil fuel use.
EPA’s SKINNING THE CAT
Unable to have Congress pass laws achieving his goals, President Obama found ways using the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to promulgate rulings to achieve his aims. The last four years, EPA posted four rulings that severely restrict use of coal, oil, and natural gas for power plants. In 2011 there is the Mercury and Air Toxic Standards (MATS) and Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR). On March 27, 2012 there is the First Carbon Pollution Standards for Future Power Plants. On June 2, 2014, EPA issued proposed Carbon Pollution Standards or Clean Power Plan (CPP) for existing power plants that by 2030 reduce carbon dioxide emissions 30 percent below 2005 levels. The fourth proposed ruling was finalized August 3, 2015 reducing carbon dioxide levels by 32 percent below 2005 level. Publication of the CPP in the Federal Register was made October 23, 2015 which starts the clock for compliance.
The first three EPA rulings were implemented with billions spent adding more pollution controls or shutting down coal plants. The Supreme Court dealt a blow to the MATS rule on June 29, 2015, ruling the Environmental Protection Agency did not properly consider costs of the regulation. However, since three years had elapsed, utilities had already implemented the pollution controls or shut down plants at great costs. At least 26 states are suing to overturn CPP.
EPA CHANGES GAME PLAN ON GLOBAL WARMING
On March 18, 2009, EPA employee Allyn Brooks-LaSure sent a three-page e-mail “Strategic Communications Conversation” to Richard Windsor, aka EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson. Ms. Brooks-LaSure points out polar bears and ice caps were not attracting public attention on attempts to curtail fossil fuel use to stop global warming. She stated, “However, if we shift from making this about polar caps and about our neighbor with respiratory illness we can potentially bring this issue to many Americans.” Thus use of children struggling with asthma attacks would be a major issue supporting EPA regulations.
President Obama has used asthma on several occasions to support his efforts to stop use of fossil fuels to stop global warming. The May 31, 2014 The Guardian carried an article “Obama heralds health benefits of climate plan to cut power plant emissions” which described a presentation President Obama made, with white-robed individuals in the background, in an asthma ward at the Children’s National Medical Centre in Washington, DC. The President said, “just in the first year the plan would reduce asthma attacks by 100,000 and heart attacks by 2100″. A 7-page report from The White House “The Health Impacts of Climate Change On Americans” list their claims of health problems from global warming. No mention most health problems occur in the winter. On April 7, 2015, President Obama appeared on ABC television news and mentioned 12 years earlier his 4 year old daughter had to be rushed to an emergency room due to asthma attack. As a heavy smoker at that time, President Obama must have been unaware that indoor smoking is a big contributor to causing asthma attacks.
PUBLIC HEALTH BENEFITS EMPHASIZED
EPA Administrator Gina McCarty announced, “The first year these standards go into effect, we’ll avoid up to 100,000 asthma attacks and 2,100 heart attacks-and those numbers go up from there.”
“No one really knows what causes asthma. Causes of asthma symptoms vary for different people. Still, one thing is consistent with asthma: when airways come into contact with an asthma trigger, the airways become inflamed, narrow, and fill with mucus. Allergies with asthma are common problem. Eighty percent of people with asthma have allergies to airborne substances such as tree, grass, and weed pollens, mold, animal dander, dust mites, and cockroach particles.”
A July 11, 2011 article in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution by University of Georgia Emeritus Prof. R. Harold Brown “Politics of asthma have outrun the science of the condition” destroys arguments power plant emissions cause asthma. EPA claims ozone causes asthma; but Prof. Brown cites studies show a negative correlation of asthma attacks with peak eight-hour ozone concentrations. A 2004 global report on asthma cited asthma incidences among adults as 10.9 percent in the U. S., 2.1 percent in China, and 2.2 percent in Russia; countries with far more polluted air than the U. S. A 2001-2004 CDC study reported 14.6 percent of U. S. born women, 4 percent of Mexican born women, and 6.8 percent for immigrants born elsewhere claimed they had asthma.
EPA AIR QUALITY TRENDS
EPA’s published Air Quality Trends shows continuous reductions in air pollution from 1980 to 2014. This in spite of Gross Domestic Product growth of 147 %, miles traveled growth of 97 %, population growth of 41 %, and energy consumption of 26 %. (Note the increase in energy consumption is far smaller than population growth. This indicates far more efficient use of energy in spite of demands for more energy to satisfy new technology requirements like the Internet, the cloud storage, cell phones, and smart phones.) Aggregate emissions of 6 common pollutants (carbon monoxide, lead, nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds, particulate matter, and sulfur dioxide) dropped 63 % from 1980 to 2014. This information was last updated September 24, 2015.
A July 22, 2015 article “Five Charts That Blow Apart EPA’s Asthma Claims” shows a 131 percent increase in child asthma from 1980 to 2014 in the U. S. while all forms of pollution decreased. From EPA reasoning we should allow pollution to increase in order to reduce asthma incidence.
Air qualities today are unbelievably clean in comparison prior to 1950. Coal was burned without environmental controls for electric power generation, train propulsion, and business and home heating. Laundry hung outside to dry turned grey, snow on the ground the day after a snow fall was black, and soot was lodged on surfaces of objects (cars) left outside. Most paints contained lead. Tetraethyl lead was used in all gasoline. Catalytic converters didn’t exist on cars. The list of pollutants goes on and on.
ECONOMIC ASPECTS OF CLEAN POWER PLAN
A November 7, 2015 report “Energy and Consumer Impacts of EPA’s Clean Power Plan” by the National Economic Research Associates, Inc. predicted the following impacts of CPP: Average annual electricity rate increases of 11 to 14 percent and economic losses to U. S. consumers ranging from $64 billion to $79 billion. These increases will ultimately fall upon the 120 million households in the country for an average COST of $530 to $660.
A Bloomberg News report “Clean air’s cost: utility bill surge projected” stated loss of cheaper coal units will boost power prices by as much as 25 % on grids serving about a third of the nation.
Also in response to the Clean Power Plan the National Black Chamber of Commerce wrote a report “Potential of Proposed EPA Regulations on Low Income Groups and Minorities”. “The EPA rules would: 1) Significantly reduce U.S. GDP every year over the next two decades –over $2.3 trillion; 2) Destroy millions of jobs; 3) More than double the cost of power and natural gas to over $1 trillion; 4) Require the average family to pay over $1,225 more for power and gas in 2030 than in 2012. The EPA regulations will increase Hispanic poverty by more than 26% and Black poverty by more than 23%.”
EPA’s CCP brought the following response from the United Mine Workers of America:
“[TRIANGLE, VA.] United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) International President Cecil E. Roberts issued the following statement June 2, 2014:
“The proposed rule issued today by the Environmental Protection Agency will lead to long-term and irreversible job losses for thousands of coal miners, electrical workers, utility workers, boilermakers, railroad workers and others without achieving any significant reduction of global greenhouse gas emissions.
“Our initial analysis indicates that there will be a loss of 75,000 direct coal generation jobs in the United States by 2020. Those are jobs primarily in coal mines, power plants, and railroads. By 2035, those job losses will more than double to 152,000. That amounts to about a 50 percent cut in these well-paying, highly skilled jobs. When a U.S. government economic multiplier used to calculate the impact of job losses is applied to the entire economy, we estimate that the total impact will be about 485,000 permanent jobs lost.”
Using EPA’s own models, climate rule reduces global warming by just 0.02 degrees Celsius and slows sea-level rise by just 0.01 of an inch by the year 2100. It leaves Americans to wonder why the EPA is pursuing a climate rule that does nothing to address climate change while inflicting severe financial damage.
PUBLIC DAMAGE FROM CLEAN POWER PLAN
Carbon dioxide is a necessary chemical to sustain life on this planet. It is an airborne fertilizer that increases plant yields and bigger plant root systems that make them more drought resistant. A report on social benefits of carbon dioxide for agriculture alone is estimated at $3.2 trillion from 1960 to 2012. Benefits from 2012 to 2050 are estimated to be $7.9 trillion. It may be the increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide from 310 parts per million (ppm) in 1950 to 400 ppm today is the reason the planet can feed the population increase of 2.5 billion in 1950 to 7 billion in 2013.
Abundant fossil fuel energy is the source of benefits to modern society. The energy sources cause risks; but society deems those risks well worth accepting in light of benefits. Take the example of automobiles. In the United States 33,000 die annually from automobile accidents; yet the 90 deaths daily are essentially ignored. We have 230 million passenger cars and light trucks. On average they travel 12,000 miles per year. This leads to an auto fatality every 84 million miles traveled. The convenience of auto travel overrides this slight risk of a fatality.
Higher electricity prices cause the less fortunate to forgo health benefits of heating in the winter and air conditioning in the summer. This leads to unnecessary illnesses and deaths. Can EPA prove benefits of decreased carbon dioxide output in electricity generation, which causes price escalation, overrides risks of reduced electricity availability?
It is relatively simple to show 33,000 death certificates annually due to automobile accidents. Can EPA produce one death certificate they claim is due to carbon dioxide pollution? Can one death certificate be produced saying a child died from asthma due to carbon dioxide? I think not. In the future we may be able to show death certificates due to EPA’s and President Obama’s Clean Power Plan