States should just say no to climate initiatives

Climate change regulations imposed by federal bureaucrats now give state governments a new opportunity to extract money from their citizens. In the interest of protecting American families and businesses from higher energy prices devoid of any meaningful climate benefit, states should just say no.

A large component of the Obama administration’s climate-change agenda is to restrict carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants. Washington regulators set a goal of reducing CO2 emissions 30 percent by 2030, which would mostly target abundant and affordable coal-fired generation.

However, in an attempt to attract state buy-in, the Environmental Protection Agency has set unique targets for each state, based on their current energy mixes, and told states that they have the first crack at coming up with a plan to meet the targets. EPA-approved options that states may employ include mandating renewable energy generation, requiring more stringent efficiency standards for homes, commercial buildings and appliances, or instituting carbon taxes or cap-and-trade programs.

On top of regulations for existing plants, the feds have set emission limits for new power plants. These caps effectively ban the construction of new coal-fired power plants. And since most of America’s energy needs are met through carbon-emitting conventional fuels, the one-two punch hitting power plants is the regulatory equivalent of a massive energy tax.

The EPA’s carbon crusade has nothing to do with reducing pollution or tackling a health issue. CO2 is a colorless, odorless, nontoxic gas. The crusade is predicated solely on CO2’s alleged impact on the climate. But no matter what one believes about the effect of man-made emissions’ on global warming, two things are decidedly clear: These climate regulations will cost a whole heck of a lot, and they won’t make a lick of difference in global temperatures.

Understanding that the heavy-handed regs sought by the EPA will provide no significant climate benefit, some states are looking to get something out of them. And that something is cash.

For example, Virginia state Rep. Ron Villanueva, Virginia Beach Republican, recently proposed that the Old Dominion join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative — a cap-and-trade program in the Northeast that has pumped more than $1.8 billion into state coffers since 2008.

Mr. Villanueva said that joining the regional cap-and-trade program would be a “cost effective” way to deal with the federal government’s requirements, but the reality is that such regulations are not at all cost-effective for consumers.

Families would pay more to use less electricity. The costs would reverberate throughout the economy as affected industries passed higher costs onto consumers. Simply put, consumers would consume less and producers would produce less, resulting in lower income, reduced job creation and lost economic growth.

And since energy is required for everything we make and do, the government climate regulations will ripple across all sectors of the economy, hitting the American people again and again.

It’s second nature for politicians to want to make money off regulations. Seizing opportunities to make money is the American way. It’s why folks printed off T-shirts with the Charlie Sheen’s catchword, “Winning” when the actor had his very public meltdown.

The difference is consumers are free to decide whether or not they will purchase these items. With climate regulations, unelected government bureaucrats are trying to force states to embrace measures that will impose needlessly high — and virtually inescapable — costs on their citizens. Some politicians are willing to go along with it, if only to line the government’s pockets.

Mr. Villanueva’s proposal, for example, would force businesses to buy carbon credits from the state. Naturally, the businesses will pass the cost of those credits onto consumers.

Instead of viewing climate regulation as a cash cow, state governments should protect their citizens’ pocketbooks and fight the regs. If the states begin to cave, though, someone’s bound to start printing off “Losing” T-shirts. After all, there would be millions of potential buyers.

 - Nicolas Loris is the Herbert and Joyce Morgan Fellow at the Heritage Foundation’s Roe Institute for Economic Policy Studies.

About the Author

Nicolas Loris Herbert and Joyce Morgan Fellow in Energy and Environmental Policy
Thomas A. Roe Institute for Economic Policy Studies

Originally appeared in The Washington Times