Post Partisan (blog)
August 4, 2015
The Insiders: Obama’s latest global warming plan is about his legacy, not policy
By Ed Rogers
The latest iteration of the administration’s Clean Power Plan isn’t really meant to impact the environment or produce more energy. It is fair to say that it is just another attempt by President Obama to make an ideological point. Only Obama’s most committed apologists will herald this pseudo-plan as a legitimate achievement.
The measures in the Clean Power Plan would serve only to raise energy prices for consumers and suppress job growth and would not have any appreciable impact on what are touted as the man-made causes of global warming.
The New York Times introduced the plan Sunday with this headline: “Obama to unveil tougher environmental plan with his legacy in mind.” Legacy, indeed. At the end of the day, it is just a Potemkin gesture designed to produce another round of self-congratulatory cheers for a spent presidency.
Obama and the Democrats have declared that coal is the enemy. But if you examine their policies, coal isn’t necessarily their real enemy. Their real enemy seems to be economic growth and cheap energy, since those are the real casualties of the left’s war on coal.
If the Clean Power Plan was really about global warming, the Democrats would champion urgent plans to build nuclear power plants. Instead of simply offering some weak talking points, they would work to create subsidies for nuclear power plants in the same way they create subsidies for their other pet causes. And the Learjet liberals, starting with Hillary Clinton, would give up some of their consumption habits, the ones available only to the privileged few. If the left was serious about ensuring American energy independence and wanted cheap, reliable, abundant energy, it would create incentives for clean coal and all sorts of clean coal technology that the United States could both use and export.
The fact is, unless China and India actually reduce their coal consumption, nothing we do in the United States will matter anyway. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, in 2013, China accounted for “47 percent of global coal consumption — almost as much as the entire rest of the world combined.” The American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE) when analyzing the impact of the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed regulations in 2014, found that China emits around 800 million metric tons of carbon dioxide in a single month — about 45 percent more emissions than the Clean Power Plan would “save” in an entire year. In other words, the cuts called for in the president’s plan would not have any appreciable effect on the global thermostat. And India isn’t shy about its aspirations for its coal reserves either. The bottom line is that the United States cannot act unilaterally to “save the planet.”
Anyway, the president and the Democrats want us to believe that coal is the source of many of the problems they want to solve from Washington — from childhood health to global warming — and that getting rid of coal across the board will save us and, of course, somehow also save money. Are they serious? Realistically, if these rules are implemented, costs will rise for everybody, jobs will continue to move overseas, and increases in emissions from countries such as China and India will eclipse any forced decrease in emissions here in the United States. And while power bills are increased for seniors and rural communities and jobs are outsourced overseas, what do we get? According to ACCCE estimates, CO2 concentrations will be reduced by less than 0.5 percent; the rise in global temperatures will be diminished by no more than 0.016 degrees Fahrenheit; and the rise in sea levels will decrease by 0.3 millimeters (which, for reference, is about the thickness of three sheets of paper).
Meanwhile, the Democrats are pretending this Clean Power Plan is not a further erosion of our constitutional process. They are picking a fight that is headed to the courtroom, not the ballot box. These regulations should be offered as legislation, not as rules passed down from an exhausted White House. The voters should be the ones to decide. They should decide whether they want their elected leaders to pass laws that raise their power bills for zero gain. It would be fun for the GOP leadership in Congress to put this to a vote and see how many votes it would get. Similarly, the National Governors Association should circulate a letter advocating the plan, to see how many governors would sign on.
If nothing else, at least the Clean Power Plan will be a useful political exercise. It will be interesting to watch Clinton try to reconcile this plan with her rhetoric of “fighting for the middle class.” She won’t sound credible or look honest when she tries to have it both ways.
Republicans need to force the Democrats to go on the record and then take a clear, contrasting stand. Republicans can espouse the need for a true “all of the above” energy strategy, rather than gratuitously locking up coal, raising energy prices, harming business, suppressing job growth and lowering the disposable income of everybody who pays a power bill.
Ed Rogers is a contributor to the PostPartisan blog, a political consultant and a veteran of the White House and several national campaigns. He is the chairman of the lobbying and communications firm BGR Group, which he founded with former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour in 1991.