Fighting for affordable energy could remake presidential race

The final sprint for the White House is on, with both Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpO’Malley tells Dems not to fear Trump Right way and wrong way Five things to know about the elephant trophies controversy MORE and Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonO’Malley tells Dems not to fear Trump FBI informant gathered years of evidence on Russian push for US nuclear fuel deals, including Uranium One, memos show Pelosi blasts California Republicans for supporting tax bill MORE concentrating their attention on massive ad buys in battleground states.

But commercials will only sway voters so much. Truly winning them over will require sound policy — particularly when it comes to energy and the economy.

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For one, overzealous federal regulations are holding the middle class hostage. Three in particular are draining Americans' pocketbooks, paralyzing economic growth, and in some cases, actually doing environmental damage. And they are hitting swing states voters especially hard.

The first is the Renewable Fuel Standard. Established in 2005, the RFS mandates, among other things, the percentage of motor fuel that must come from renewable sources, principally corn-based ethanol. The Environmental Protection Agency recently released a new RFS standard that requires even more ethanol to be blended with gasoline.

That'll cost drivers dearly. When ethanol is added to gasoline, drivers get fewer miles per gallon. From 2007 to 2014, the RFS cost drivers an additional $83 billion at the pump.  

What's more, despite initial claims that using more ethanol would improve the environment, the RFS is actually harming it. A 2014 report from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warns "biofuels' indirect emissions -- including from land use change -- can lead to greater total emissions than when using petroleum products."

A new study from the University of Michigan's John DeCicco confirms those findings. Net emissions of corn ethanol "could be as much as 70% higher than those of gasoline," the study concludes.

"From farm fields to tailpipes, the science is clear: when renewable fuels' real-world emissions are properly assessed, these so-called green fuels worsen the air," DeCicco asserts.

In Ohio, for example -- an important election battleground -- voters have plenty of reason to be wary of the RFS. Since 2005, the RFS has led to nearly 2 million metric tons of additional carbon emissions, according to a report from the Center for Regulatory Solutions. That's similar to putting an extra 400,000 cars on the road. Worse still, the RFS has cost drivers an extra $4 billion in fuel over a decade.

The second regulation that needs to be addressed is the Obama administration's strict new methane emissions limitations. Already, over a dozen states are suing the EPA for overstepping its authority — among them swing states like Ohio, Wisconsin, Michigan and North Carolina.  

This rebellion shouldn't come as a shock. The EPA itself admits that complying with its new methane reduction rules will cost $530 million by 2025, and independent studies say the annual price tag could exceed $800 million. By 2020, National Economic Research Associates says that the regulations will cost three times what the EPA has projected.

Moreover, the new methane rules will put a big damper on a vital source of blue collar job growth. Hydraulic fracturing — or fracking — and horizontal drilling support 2.1 million jobs. That figure is expected to nearly double by 2025 -- but not if the EPA continues to choke energy development.

The methane rule will also end up hurting the environment. A 2011 Massachusetts Institute of Technology study found increased utilization of natural gas power plants would reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 20 percent, and help lower levels of other dangerous pollutants. Our increasing reliance on natural gas could halt or reverse, if we allow the new methane rule to impede production.

The third nettlesome regulation, likewise discouraging cleaner natural gas power plants, is the Obama administration's "Clean Power Plan" — which would "reduce CO2 emissions from the utility sector by 32 percent from 2005 levels."

And that's on average. Some states will have to reduce emissions more than others. Important swing states such as Wisconsin, Michigan, and Ohio will have to make disproportionately expensive sacrifices under the Clean Power Plan.

All three of these regulations are ill-conceived and expensive policy blunders. However, they also represent a political opportunity for the candidate that promises regulation reprieve come January.

Dr. Tom Borelli, Ph.D. is a contributor to Conservative Review.


The views of Contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill