President Barack Obama rolled out his plan for massive energy reform yesterday at Georgetown University. His pledge to cut carbon emissions by 17 percent could lower the world’s emissions by 3 to 4 percent—if emissions from all other countries stayed the same, which is unlikely. Obama’s massive new regulations on coal almost undoubtedly will raise energy prices.
Dealing with climate change has long ranked with healthcare as one of the most ideological issues of Obama’s presidency
“I’m here to say we need to act,” the president said. “I refuse to condemn your generation and future generations to a planet that’s beyond fixing.”
Obama has bypassed Congress with his environmental initiatives, implementing his ideas through the executive branch and the Environmental Protection Agency.
His plan includes new efficiency standards for everything from heavy-duty trucks to appliances and buildings. But by far the largest aspect of the plan are new restrictions on carbon from coal-burning power plants, which the Associated Press reported would likely force energy companies away from coal and virtually end the building of new plants. In reaction, the stock prices of the nation’s biggest coal mining companies have fallen more than 10 percent over the past two days.
Obama mocked those who deny humans are contributing to the warming of the planet. “We don’t have time for a meeting of the Flat Earth Society,” he said.
The president’s remarks ignored many who believe that climate change is indeed occurring, but believe the way to combat it isn’t through threatening the nation’s largest source of energy and the employer of thousands in some of the nation’s poorest states, like West Virginia.
Republicans on both sides of the Capitol dubbed Obama’s plan a continuation of his “war on coal” and “war on jobs.” The National Association of Manufacturers claimed Obama’s proposals would drive up costs. Republican Rep. Shelley Moore Capito of the coal-heavy state of West Virginia slammed what she called the president’s “tyrannical efforts to bankrupt the coal industry.”
Analysts are only just beginning to predict the potential effects. Nick Akins, CEO of American Electric Power, one of the nation’s largest utilities, said Tuesday that as long as utilities like his are given enough time, Obama’s plan could be carried out “without a major impact to customers or the economy.”
Whether that will happen is uncertain. A rise in energy prices would hurt the nation’s poor the hardest. But the plan does expand the use of federal land for clean-energy production. The stinginess of the government with its land for energy purposes has long annoyed the industry.
Still, many fear this second pet project of the president may turn out like Obamacare, which is proving itself to have many unintended consequences.