By now practically everyone in America must know that the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) new proposed rule on carbon-dioxide emissions from power plants will cost a lot and achieve next to nothing.
Cost? About $50 billion a year in lost production to the U.S. economy, accompanied by electricity rates that-in fulfillment of then-candidate Barack Obama’s campaign promise-will “necessarily skyrocket,” in turn driving up the prices of everything we make with electricity (which is just about everything).
Achievement? Insofar as reducing global warming-the purported rationale-so little as to be indiscernible. Ever.
So why in the world would EPA propose the rule?
Well, if you believe EPA, it’s because reducing CO2 emissions-which will be achieved mainly by shutting down coal-fired power plants-will have the happy side benefit of reducing other emissions that (unlike CO2, which is good for plants and everything that eats them or eats what eats them) really are harmful.
But as the American Enterprise Institute’s Ben Zycher pointed out, regulations already exist to control those emissions. And by law those regulations are supposed already to be sufficient to bring those emissions to a level necessary to “protect the public health” with “adequate margin for safety.”
So if EPA justifies the new CO2 regulations by appealing to their indirect effect on other emissions, one of three things follows:
- EPA is admitting that its already-in-place regulations of those other emissions don’t achieve what the law requires it to achieve.
- Or, as Zycher puts it, EPA is “double-counting the health benefits from other regulations already in force.”
- Or, again as Zycher puts it, EPA is “assuming further health benefits from reducing pollution levels that already are lower than those at which the epidemiological analyses suggest no adverse effects.”
Not a pretty dilemma for EPA: We’re breaking the law by not doing our job. Or we’re liars. Or we’re imposing lots of pain for no gain.
Or maybe it’s all three.
But looking for EPA’s rationale for the new rule in terms of improved health for Americans assumes that that’s EPA’s real purpose. What if it’s not? What if its real purpose is purely, but clandestinely, political? What if it’s a matter of rewarding the President’s friends and punishing his enemies?
Five years ago, a study done by scholars at Massachusetts Institute of Technology found that a policy imposing a CO2 tax or cap-and-trade regime (or both-and the new EPA rule provides for states to use either or both) would impose higher costs on those states that currently get more of their energy from fossil fuels, and lower costs on those states that currently get less. The lower costs would affect “California, the Pacific Coast, New England, and New York generally,” and the higher costs would hit “South Central, Texas, [Oklahoma] and Mountain States.”
In case you’ve forgotten, it just so happens that in 2008 and 2012, Obama carried “California, the Pacific Coast, New England, and New York” and lost “South Central, Texas, and [except Colorado] Mountain States.” The former are blue states, the latter red states.
And, wouldn’t you know it? EPA’s new rule would impose higher costs on-hold your breath!-red states, and lower costs on blue states.
Pure coincidence, no doubt. No community organizer or his advisers who urge, “Never let a crisis go to waste” would be so Machiavellian, vindictive, or sneaky as to punish their enemies by means of a hyper-complex environmental rule sold as saving the planet from global warming.
But setting that aside, there is one other, very significant thing to observe about the new rule. The MIT study actually predicted it: “Differences in costs among regions are driven by differences in CO2 intensity of electricity production, the presence of energy producing and energy intensive industry, and income levels.” It’s those last two words we’re most interested in.
Unsurprisingly, richer people tend to be able to afford expensive things better than poorer people. That includes energy. The lower you push CO2 emissions, the more expensive it is to generate electricity. Not surprisingly, the states that have chosen to push their CO2 emissions down already are the richer states, and the ones that haven’t are the poorer states.
California, the Pacific Coast, New England, and New York-Obama’s strongholds-are, on average, richer than “South Central, Texas, and Mountain States.” In fact, in 2012, per capita income in those 17 red states averaged $36,854, or 14% lower than the national average. But per capita income in those blue states averaged $46,954, or 10% more than the national average and 27% more than those nasty, CO2-emitting red states.
So it turns out that with EPA’s new rule, Obama not only rewards his friends and punishes his enemies, he also does something very peculiar for someone who claims to be the friend of the poor. He clobbers the poor while cosseting the rich.
“Social justice” advocates-call your office.