An opportunity to return balance to energy policy

America needs to develop its natural resources within a framework of policies that protect the Earth through wise stewardship of the land. While the past eight years have yielded a windfall of policies, there has been little wisdom attached to them.

Take for example the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plant (CPP) rule. Enacted by executive authority alone and now awaiting the Supreme Court’s ruling as to its validity, it is purported to address climate change. The CPP would cost the energy industry between $41 billion and $73 billion per year, according to economic consulting firm NERA. Ultimately, it is consumers who would bear the compliance costs in the form of higher electricity rates, which would include double-digit price hikes in 41 states, with 28 states potentially facing peak year electricity price increases of at least 20 percent.

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Despite the costs, the Obama administration’s own EPA projects that by the year 2100 – a full 83 years away – the rule will have prevented just 0.019 degrees Celsius of additional warming. That calculated temperature difference is so tiny that there’s not even a way to actually measure it. In other words, it wouldn’t save a single life, let alone save the planet.

Coercive government policies that are effectively forcing energy companies to generate a greater share of electricity from more expensive “renewable sources” are causing more Americans to spend 10 percent or more of their income on household utilities – a situation known as “green energy poverty.”

In California, where disastrous renewable energy mandates were championed by billionaire Tom Steyer, an estimated one million households now live in green energy poverty, with minorities the most severely impacted. Golden State electricity prices are about 40 percent higher than the national average, and the overall poverty rate tops the nation and is now 50 percent higher than Mississippi. If California has one saving grace, it is that generally moderate temperatures protect its residents from even greater suffering. But in Europe, which is years farther down the road with renewable energy mandates, 40,000 people died from winter weather in 2014 because millions of people were no longer able to pay their electricity bill.

Since the election, the outgoing administration blocked new oil and gas drilling in the Arctic Ocean and denied an easement necessary for the Dakota Access Pipeline to continue (after previously approving it) and is unleashing a torrent of “midnight” regulations. A new set of rules on natural gas flaring is another case in point. With a $1.4 billion price tag, the regulation makes extracting natural gas more expensive, which does nothing to help consumers and even the EPA found emissions from shale gas drilling  fell 81 percent from 2012 to 2014. According to the Bureau of Land Management, the rules would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by a statistically insignificant 0.0092 percent.

As EPA Administrator Gina McCarthyRegina (Gina) McCarthyOvernight Energy: Critics accuse Interior's top lawyer of misleading Congress | Boaty McBoatface makes key climate change discovery | Outrage over Trump's order to trim science advisory panels Trump's order to trim science advisory panels sparks outrage Overnight Energy: Trump order to trim science panels sparks outrage | Greens ask watchdog to investigate Interior's records policies | EPA to allow use of pesticide harmful to bees MORE told her employees, the agency is “running—not walking–through the finish line of President Obama’s presidency.” Yet, there is considerable reason for optimism. Even if it survives the legal challenge, CPP and many of the most onerous Obama regulations may be reversed by means of the Congressional Review Act (CRA) over the next few months.

With the incoming Congress and Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpHarris bashes Kavanaugh's 'sham' nomination process, calls for his impeachment after sexual misconduct allegation Celebrating 'Hispanic Heritage Month' in the Age of Trump Let's not play Charlie Brown to Iran's Lucy MORE naming Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to head the EPA, there is an opportunity to harness the power of the market combined with safe technologies to develop natural resources and lift the American economy, including families left behind during the slow economic recovery of the previous administration and return that authority to state and local officials where it belongs.

A more balanced policy approach would take advantage of America’s energy abundance to create jobs, restore the balance of trade and rebuild the economy. At the same time, policies could provide innovative solutions that create incentives to reduce pollution and protect the environment concretely rather than symbolically. Time will tell whether we can achieve meaningful and lasting regulatory reform, but at least America now has the opportunity to rebalance its energy policies in ways that actually make sense for a change.

Craig Richardson is the president of The Energy & Environment Legal Institute.


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