by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Zack Colman of the Washington Examiner compiles a list of things you should know about President Obama’s Clean Power Plan.
The Obama administration finalized the centerpiece of President Obama’s climate change agenda Monday, a move that invites significant changes to how Americans get electricity. It also sounds the starting gun on political squabbles over the future of the U.S. energy landscape, legal fights, climate policy and the country’s role in international climate negotiations set to begin in November in Paris.
The regulation also will affect the average American. The Obama administration contends it will carry significant health benefits by taking older, dirtier coal-fired power plants offline, helping to avoid 3,600 premature deaths and 90,000 asthma attacks in children by the time it is fully implemented. But opponents of the rule say those figures are bogus and believe the real pain will come from potential power price increases. …
… The goal is to reduce carbon dioxide in the power sector, which largely will be accomplished by reducing coal’s share of the electricity pie. Today it provides 39 percent of the nation’s power, but the EPA predicts it will supply 27 percent because of the rule and a mixture of market forces such as competition from natural gas. Most climate scientists say carbon dioxide is more responsible for warming the planet than any other greenhouse gas in the electricity system.
Will it raise electricity prices?
Prices, yes. Bills, perhaps not. The EPA says consumers would save $85 annually in power costs by 2030, largely through improvements in energy efficiency that would result in less power consumption. But the agency does predict the rates customers pay will increase by as much as 3 percent in 2020 compared with a business-as-usual scenario, though power prices in 2030 would be 1 percent higher or flat under two different schemes. The effect on prices likely won’t be uniform across the country. States that have more coal-fired power to replace would likely see steeper increases, at least at first.
Will it cause blackouts?
Rule proponents say it won’t, but some states and power industry groups contend it would. The EPA tried to address those fears by including a new feature called a “reliability safety valve.” The idea is that in states where a major transition is required — say, by quickly shuttering large amounts of coal-fired power plants before new sources are built — grid operators could run a power plant if there is a shortage of power needed to meet demand, even if doing so would conflict with meeting the emission goals.