Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call/Newscom

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call/Newscom

The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) planned greenhouse gas regulations for both new and existing power plants would effectively act as a bureaucratically managed cap-and-trade plan that would drive up energy costs across the country.

Lamar Smith (R–TX), chairman of the House Space, Science and Technology Committee, sent a letter this week to EPA administrator Gina McCarthy asking for a full review of the agency’s greenhouse gas regulations for new power plants after independent scientific advisers at the EPA highlighted problems with the proposed rule for electricity-generating plants.

The call for additional review is a result of the EPA’s assumptions about the availability of carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) technology, which is the only way that coal-powered plants could meet the standards. The Clean Air Act stipulates that new rules must reflect “the best system of emission reduction” as adequately demonstrated by the EPA administrator. The problem with the EPA’s assumptions is that no credible basis exists to state that CCS is adequately demonstrated today, since no large-scale power plant in the United States has CCS. One large-scale CCS project is currently under contract, but it is hardly a model for new coal-fired plants for the rest of the country.

Implementation of CCS has a number of extremely difficult obstacles to overcome. There are questions of technical scalability, regulatory challenges, long-term liability of storing the captured carbon dioxide, and—above all—cost. Even with taxpayer-funded financial handouts to CCS projects, building them will be prohibitively costly, which is why the EPA’s regulation of greenhouse gas emissions will stop companies from building new coal plants. But even if CCS were affordable, it does not justify the EPA’s greenhouse gas regulation, since the regulation addresses a non-threatening problem: climate change.

What is a problem, however, are the high costs American families and businesses will incur as a result of the EPA’s war on coal. The loss of coal as a dependable, affordable energy source spells higher prices for electricity and forces consumers to reduce usage. The higher cost of energy increases the cost of production across most of the economy. At the same time, consumers have less to spend on non-energy items.

This combination reduces employment and chokes economic activity. A new report from Heritage analyzing 20-year phase-out of coal power estimates that that by the end of 2023, job losses reach nearly 600,000, with manufacturing job losses accounting for almost half of them. Gross domestic product falls by $2.23 trillion over the time period.

The Obama Administration stresses, “The public must be able to trust the science and scientific process informing public policy decisions. Political officials should not suppress or alter scientific or technological findings and conclusions.” Science should be a guiding tool for public policy, but politicians and bureaucrats substantially weaken the scientific process when they ignore science.