fb tracking

A Predictable Reaction to Climate Action

Last week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a proposal for the first-ever standard to reduce carbon pollution from our existing fleet of fossil fuel-fired power plants – the largest source of U.S. climate changing emissions.

It has been labeled an historic moment for clean air regulation but was met by a classic knee-jerk reaction from industry and  the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, whose lack of credibility on the proposed rule begins with its continued refusal to acknowledge human activity as a contributor to climate change.

Despite being widely considered modest and highly achievable, even by many electric utilities, the carbon standard was greeted – like all the clean air regulations that have preceded it – with the same unfounded hysteria by a few invested industries and political operatives looking out for their narrow self-interest.

The fossil fuel industry has been predicting economic doom and gloom as a result of Clean Air Act safeguards for decades, but those predictions have never come to pass.  In fact, a series of studies led by Harvard economist Dale Jorgenson has found that implementing the CAA has actually increased the size of the U.S. economy.

Moreover, the total benefits of the Clean Air Act amount to more than 40 times the costs of regulation. For every one dollar we have spent, we get more than $40 of benefits in return.

And the regulation to limit carbon emissions from existing power plants is getting the same doomsday predictions but will likely have the same positive returns. The draft rule, based on EPA analysis for public health benefits alone, would yield between $55 billion to $93 billion in benefits when it is fully implemented, with 2,700 to 6,600 premature deaths avoided and 140,000 to 150,000 asthma attacks a year avoided. The cost, by contrast, would be $7.3 billion to $8.8 billion. That’s a bargain.

Even before the standard was introduced, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce was making wild claims that the regulation of carbon would result in skyrocketing prices and devastating job loss. The Chamber even issued a report outlandishly claiming the rule – which hadn’t yet been released – would cost the economy $51 billion a year.

Several media outlets including The Washington Post and The New York Times immediately discredited the report’s finding and called the Chamber out for catering to the ever more powerful anti-science sentiments of the Republican Party. In response to the report, Tyson Slocum, director of Public Citizen’s Energy Program, said, “The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is running a political campaign masquerading as a policy shop.”

But despite the fact check slap down, the Chamber is still attempting to perpetuate the narrative that the carbon standard will crush our economy. Perhaps it is operating under the hope that if it repeats the lie enough, people will start to believe it as truth.

Public Citizen is not letting the Chamber go unchallenged.

This weekend on Meet the Press’s segment, Make the Case, Slocum challenged the Chamber’s core assumptions of the EPA carbon standard, while president and CEO of the Chamber’s Institute for 21st Century Energy, Karen Harbert, continued to stay the misinformation course.

Here’s a quick look at the Chamber’s one-liners:

The carbon standard will result in skyrocketing electricity prices: Wrong

  • The EPA carbon standards, which rely on strong efficiency measures, could save U.S. households and businesses more than $37 billion in 2020. That’s about $100 savings for the average household.
  • A plan with a strong energy efficiency focus will benefit consumers. Energy efficiency is the centerpiece of an existing pollution control program, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, which has allowed participating states to reduce pollution 40 percent while reducing energy bills an average of 8 percent, creating clean energy jobs and growing the state economies – Nine states currently participate in the initiative: Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont.

The carbon standard will result in the shuttering of coal plants, creating devastating job loss: Wrong 

  • Coal-fired power plants are closing not because of clean air protections, but because less expensive fuel source are making coal uneconomical.
  • Even Kentucky, the top carbon emissions polluter in the country, sees moving away from coal inevitable and manageable. Representative John Yarmuth, a Democrat from Louisville, recently told The New York Times, “If you add all the numbers up, we can probably comply with the terms of the rule with very little impact, if any, because everybody’s heading in that direction to begin with,” he said. “Anybody who’s actually looked at the subject understands coal is going to play a dramatically reduced role in our nation’s energy portfolio.”
  • Moving to a cleaner and more efficient energy sector will result in job growth. Over the past two years alone, more than 185,000 clean energy and clean transportation jobs have been announced all across America. And an analysis by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) found that the new carbon limits can create more than 274,000 energy efficiency jobs.

The bottom line is that a healthy economy depends on a healthy environment. More so now than ever, not curbing climate change will result in extreme global economic disruption. And at the end of the day that’s what the Chamber is suggesting – a continued reliance on the largest source of climate change-causing pollution.

Allison Fisher is the Outreach Director for Public Citizen’s Energy Program