In recent years, fossil-fuel interests have spent millions to convince us we can’t afford to stop global warming. They say remaking our energy infrastructure would hurt the economy and make electricity too expensive. But the truth is the opposite. Climate change threatens devastating harm to our economy and our health. The reality is, we can’t afford not to stop it. What’s more, the effort will be wildly beneficial. Switching to a clean, renewable energy supply will create jobs and boost the economy. It will lower household electricity costs, not raise them. It will also make people healthier. That’s why we filed a brief in court on behalf of American consumers to help defend the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan, a new federal rule to curb carbon pollution from power plants.

Climate change threatens untold harm to the United States. Extreme weather will cause trillions of dollars’ worth of damage to property and infrastructure, which will force governments and businesses to raise taxes and prices to cover the costs. The quality of food and water will go down and their prices will rise, heightening food insecurity for America’s most vulnerable populations. The public will face more illness and disease due to extreme heat events, lower air quality, and increased food-, water-, and insect-borne pathogens. Around the world, climate change will make some places more difficult if not impossible to live in, spurring mass migrations, increasing terrorism and other forms of violence, and destabilizing governments. The U.S. Department of Defense said two years ago that climate change poses “immediate risks” to U.S. security.


Opponents of the Clean Power Plan are focused on more pedestrian concerns: They claim we can’t afford the rule because it would raise electricity prices. Truth be told, many people would view it as a bargain if we could prevent all the harm from climate change just by paying a little bit more for electricity, so long as we protect people who can’t afford to pay more. But it turns out we don’t even have to pay more. We did a careful analysis of the EPA rule, and we found it will lower electricity bills, not raise them.

Claims that the Clean Power Plan would raise electricity costs rely on a rhetorical sleight-of-hand. The EPA’s analysis suggests that electricity prices will rise modestly under the rule, and that’s where opponents want to keep the focus. But that’s only part of the picture. The rule will also spur improvements in energy efficiency, meaning that people will be able to use less power to do the same activities. Our analysis found that Americans will use so much less electricity that, even if the retail price of electricity is slightly higher, their monthly bills will be lower.

We project that electricity bills will be lower under the Clean Power Plan than a business-as-usual scenario in nearly every state by 2025, and in all states by 2030. The rule offers states a choice whether to meet a “mass-based” target, expressed as tons of carbon emitted, or a “rate-based” target, expressed as carbon emissions per megawatt hour of electricity produced. In the mass-based scenario, we found that a typical family in the best-performing states can expect to see a 7.3 percent decline in electricity bills by 2030, which translates into a savings of $60 to $80 annually. Under the rate-based scenario, the decline reaches 19.9 percent, for a savings of $190 to $272. Also, our analysis is conservative in several respects, so people can expect bills even lower than we’re projecting.

What does this mean for consumers? Well, if you want to save money on your electricity bills, support the on-going efforts to fight climate change such as the the Clean Power Plan.

But the reality is that the power to make these simple changes are in the hands of the states and the actual results will depend on state policy choices. The EPA rule gives states flexibility to choose how to lower their carbon emissions. If states want their consumers to benefit the most, at the least cost, then they should rely heavily on energy efficiency. It’s the cheapest and most effective way to reduce emissions.

Climate change is the greatest challenge our country currently faces. The good news is we can beat it—and doing so will boost the economy, improve public health, and even lower our monthly utility bills.

David J. Arkush, Managing Director of Public Citizen’s Climate Program.

The views expressed by authors are their own and not the views of The Hill.