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The dirty Clean Power Plan

Every choice the president and Congress make is a trade-off, not a solution. Once again, the states are usurped.

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There are no solutions, only choices. — Thomas Sowell

Let’s take Thomas Sowell’s astute truism a step or two further: 

Every choice is a trade-off. And every choice has consequences — good, not so good, bad, maybe indifferent. The consequences depend on where you sit.

Activist politicians often ignore the trade-offs. They succumb to the addiction of power and influence — the power to shape your world as they see it should be. They use “the law” — force at the point of a gun — to achieve their desires, under the guise of “for the people.” But their choices typically come at many people’s expense. They talk about the glories of their choices and bury the trade-offs and consequences.

This is especially so with Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan, unveiled two weeks ago. Rather than let market forces — historically proven to be more efficient and humanitarian than any law, or rather than leave the 50 states to determine how electricity should be generated, Obama once again decreed how he will force electricity to be generated for them. You, nor your state, will have no choice.

Under the claim that he is “convinced that no challenge poses a greater threat to our future” — in other words, he has decided and decreed,  every state must reduce its use of coal and reduce its power plants’ carbon-dioxide emissions, regardless of what each state is already doing. 

This, he said, is a matter of national security and because “over the past three decades, nationwide asthma rates have more than doubled, and climate change puts those Americans at greater risk of landing in the hospital.” (He actually said that.)

“And that’s why I committed the United States to leading the world on this challenge,” Obama said from the East Room of the White House. 

Unaccountable regulators

To be sure, there is ample constituency for climate change. We’ll not enter that quagmire. But what too many congressmen and Americans overlook — and this has been one of the defining disasters of the Obama reign — is his reach beyond constitutional bounds. For that matter, the reach beyond constitutional bounds of the Congress as well.

If you dare go into the quagmire of reading the Clean Air Act of 1970 — from which Obama and EPA believe they have the authority to rule — you see how Congress, in the process of making choices for what they believed to be the good of Americans, stupidly created bureaucratic monsters. You see how Congress gave unlimited powers to regulators who are not at all accountable to the electorate. 

For instance, consider these two verbatim parts of Section 111(b) of the Clean Air Act: 

A) The Administrator shall, within 90 days after Dec. 31, 1970, publish (and from time to time thereafter shall revise) a list of categories of stationary sources. He shall include a category of sources in such list if in his judgment it causes, or contributes significantly to, air pollution which may reasonably be anticipated to endanger public health or welfare (italics added).

B) Within one year after the inclusion of a category of stationary sources in a list under subparagraph (A), the Administrator shall publish proposed regulations, establishing Federal standards of performance for new sources within such category. The Administrator shall afford interested persons an opportunity for written comment on such proposed regulations. After considering such comments, he shall promulgate, within one year after such publication, such standards with such modifications as he deems appropriate (italics added). The Administrator shall, at least every eight years, review and, if appropriate, revise such standards following the procedure required by this subsection for promulgation of such standards. 

These two paragraphs, ordained by Congress and President Nixon, give the EPA administrator carte blanche over deciding what he deems to be pollution and how to regulate it. The public has no recourse. “… An opportunity for written comment.” Ha!

Ah, you say, public recourse can be obtained in the courts. Perhaps so, but even the Supreme Court declined to address the unconstitutional overreach of the Clean Air Act to begin with. Instead, it ruled in 2007 that carbon dioxide, which all human life requires to survive, is a pollutant.

Founders’ intent emasculated

The results of the choices and trade-offs Congresses and presidents have made ever since 1970 have been an ever-expanding, punitive, unaccountable, ideologically driven EPA. No clearer proof is Obama’s all-out war on fossil fuels, especially coal, which, by the way, supplies 30% of the nation’s power.

None of this should have occurred to begin with had all the previous Congresses and presidents for the past 40 years stuck to the U.S. Constitution. Yes, the Constitution gives Congress the authority “to regulate Commerce … among the several states.” But rather than restrict and restrain themselves, as Amendment 10 proscribed (keeping undelegated powers reserved for the states), Congresses incessantly stretch their power by making choices and trade-offs that have emasculated the Founders’ original intent of a limited federal government.

Worse, in the tenure of Obama, the president repeatedly has usurped his authority. The Clean Power Plan is just the latest effort. If you read Article 2, Sections 2 and 3, of the Constitution, spelling out the president’s powers, nowhere does it give the executive the power to decree regulations. In fact, it states: “He shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary …”

On the Clean Power Plan, Obama did not ask for Congress’ consideration. He just did it.

In the wake of this latest dictate, economists far and wide have been decrying the future costs of the Clean Power Plan if it stands as the EPA ordered.

Using data from the Energy Information Adminstration, Kevin D. Dayaratna, a statistician and programmer at the Heritage Foundation, estimates the new EPA rules will:

• Eliminate 1.19 million manufacturing jobs over the next 15 years;

• Eliminate 4.3 million jobs overall over the next 15 years;

• Cause the loss of $5.45 trillion in gross domestic product over 15 years;

• Cost a family of four $13,310 in additional energy costs over the 15 years, or an average of an additional $887 a year.

These are Obama’s choices and consequences — the pursuit of his climate-change ideology by decree at the expense of so many Americans, and likewise ignoring Abraham Lincoln’s admonition that, “No man is good enough to govern another man without his consent.”

Innovating in the states

He also is ignoring how the 50 states and the private enterprises supplying power to their residents are innovating. 

Florida Power & Light Co., which serves nearly half of Florida, is supplying power at monthly costs 25% below the national average and the lowest among Florida’s utilities. 

FP&L’s parent company, NextEra Energy, which operates in 27 states, boasts CO2 emissions 55% below the industry average; SO2 97% below; and NOx 79% below.

At the same time, Duke Energy, the holding company for Florida Progress Corp., Florida’s second-largest electric utility, reports “even without federal regulations” reducing its carbon-dioxide emissions from its plants by 22% since 2005. Between 2011 and 2018, Duke will have retired 48 coal-powered generating units. It is awaiting approval to build two nuclear power plants, one in Levy County. And it has started operating five natural-gas plants since 2011, emitting almost half the carbon-dioxide of coal plants.

A dozen states at least so far are filing lawsuits attempting to challenge and thwart Obama-EPA’s authority to coerce them into the demands of the Clean Power Plan. It would be better if Congress — Republicans and Democrats alike — had the sense, courage and will to do what the Founders prescribed: Limit the federal government’s reach, and let the states and their residents make their own choices. That would be the best solution of all.


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