From my point of view the big political/economic news of the day so far is the president’s plan for reducing the use of coal and natural gas in producing energy in the United States. I think the editors of the Wall Street Journal are right in declaiming that the move is unconstitutional:
States have regulated their power systems since the early days of electrification, but the EPA is now usurping this role to nationalize power generation and consumption. To meet the EPA’s targets, states must pass new laws or regulations to shift their energy mix from fossil fuels, subsidize alternative energy, improve efficiency, impose a cap-and-trade program, or all of the above.
Coal-fired power will be the first to be shot, but the EPA is targeting all sources of carbon energy. As coal plants have retired amid seven years of EPA assault, natural gas recently eclipsed coal as the dominant source of electric power. This cleaner-burning gas surge has led to the cheapest and fastest emissions plunge in history, but the EPA isn’t satisfied.
Thus the new rule’s central planning favors green energy sources like wind and solar. The plan expands their quotas and funding, while punishing states that are insufficiently enthusiastic. The EPA estimates renewables will make up 28% of U.S. electric capacity by 2030, up from less than 5% today.
The estimates of the cost of all of this aren’t fully in yet. Early estimates reckon it at something in excess of $2.5 trillion and its effect on warming as likely to be less than two hundreds of a degree Celsius over the next century:
The Obama administration unveiled its climate change regulations for new and existing power plants, calling the plan “the biggest, most important step we’ve ever taken to combat climate change.”
It may be the most “important” from a top-down, regulatory mandate for high energy prices, but it won’t accomplish much, if anything, in terms of combating climate change.
Even though electricity generation accounts for the single largest source of carbon dioxide emissions in the United States, the estimated reduction is minuscule compared to global greenhouse gas emissions.
Climatologists estimate that the administration’s climate regulations will avert less than two hundredths of a degree Celsius by 2100.
Just to recap my own views on the subject of climate change briefly, I think that the climate is changing, I think that we’re likely to be responsible for at least part of that, I think it’s possible that excessive carbon emissions is having some impact on that, and I’d like to see our emissions of carbon reduced. I also think that it’s a moral imperative for anyone who believes that anthropogenic climate change is the greatest threat facing us to put their cards on the table and lay out their complete plan, not just their first step but their complete plan, for dealing with it. Obviously, the president’s proposal is far from a complete plan.
I’m not that extreme but the plan I’d advocate would consist of several components:
- Eliminate all subsidies on energy production, including indirect ones like subsidies for road construction and for the construction of single family homes.
- If you absolutely must spend money on infrastructure development, spend your money on power distribution.
- Impose a tax on carbon.
- Subsidize research on small scale modular nuclear reactors (especially thorium reactors) with a view towards implementation in no less than 10 years.
- Start deploying some of the half dozen or so “geo-engineering” solutions I’ve mentioned here over the years.
which is a political non-starter for any number of reasons. I’m attacking the middle class, it’s a security threat, why do I hate poor people, etc.
I’d also offer a few tips. First, anyone who proposes a less than complete solution is casting around for political power, full stop. Second, anyone who tells you that their proposal will cost nothing or even be a net savings is either a con man or a fool. Third, there will be winners and losers in any plan. If all of the winners are the proponents’ buddies and all of the losers are those they deem enemies, smell a rat.
Finally, IMO the real problem is China. With the exception of the “geo-engineering” solutions, no effective plan can be implemented without getting China on-board. The huge hot spot in southeastern China, obvious in any heat distribution map of the world, isn’t there for decoration.