Washington Times: The Dim Future Of Affordable, Reliable Energy

By:  Sen. Jim Inhofe

Click here to read at WashingtonTimes.com 

If one word were to characterize the Obama Administration’s posture toward the economy it would be overregulation. Common sense would instruct that regulations should be supported when the benefits outweighs the costs. Due to this administration’s tactics of distorting the cost of its regulations, federal agencies are getting away with an excessive rulemaking agenda that should otherwise be intolerable.

One agency that can be credited with leading the way is the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  The EPA has made a business of systematically overstating the benefits and understating the costs of its regulatory initiatives, leaving Americans blind to the damaging effects this agency is having on domestic energy affordability and reliability.

The Utility MACT rule is one example.  Designed to reduce emissions from power plants around the country, the EPA estimated in 2011 that this rule would result in the retirement of less than 10,000 megawatts (MW) of electricity generation.  Today, reality is proving to be much worse.  With the deadline to comply with this rule less than one year away, electricity companies have announced the retirement of power plants totaling more than 50,000 MW of generation capacity, five times the amount EPA had estimated.

What will this mean for the nation’s electricity grid?  According to a Federal Energy Regulatory Commissioner, it has the potential to result in substantial power blackouts within the next few years. This means Americans may not be able to rely on the cool breeze of an air conditioner or a ceiling fan on a hot summer day.

Consider the New York Times’ story, “Coal to the Rescue, but Maybe Not Next Winter,” from March 10 that detailed how close the Eastern United States was to experiencing reductions in power supply during the Polar Vortex.  Because electricity was in high demand during the cold snap, power supply companies had a difficult time keeping the grid online.  The Times pointed out that “there might not be relief in future winters, as the coal-fired power plants that utilities have relied on to meet the surge in demand are shuttered for environmental reasons.” Had this Polar Vortex occurred once the Utility MACT rule was in full effect, our grid may not have been able to reliably heat family homes or keep businesses open in large portions of the country.

This is just one of a handful of EPA’s unchecked regulations that will be implemented in the coming years by bureaucrats and Obama political appointees. As the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) has warned, the worst is yet to come.  In just the next few weeks, EPA is expected to finalize an additional rule regulating the cooling water intake components of power plants. The NERC reported this rule could have the “greatest impact” on the number of power plants that may shut down in the next couple years, despite the EPA admitting this rule has no direct impact to the quality of life for humans.

I don’t want my grandkids to know an America where brownout and blackouts are par for the course or where energy reliability is a luxury for the upper class. This is why I am fighting against President Obama’s excessive regulatory agenda at the EPA. This starts with enforcing transparency, which is why I introduced the EPA Employment Impact Analysis Act to require the agency to disclose how its regulations will impact the whole economy. I am also working to force a simple up-or-down vote in the Senate on major EPA regulations that put at risk our nation’s ability to lead in producing cheap, accessible power.

The United States has long been a nation of abundant domestic energy in all its forms, and because of that we’ve held tremendous advantages over the rest of the world.  To ensure economic growth and expanded opportunities for future generations, we must reign in the President’s unbridled regulatory agenda and keep energy affordable for all.

Jim Inhofe is the senior U.S. Senator to Oklahoma and senior member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.