Trump’s clean power plan replacement is exactly what the coal industry needs

Trump’s clean power plan replacement is exactly what the coal industry needs
© Getty Images

According to Rep. Jerry McNerneyGerlad (Jerry) Mark McNerneyTrump’s clean power plan replacement is exactly what the coal industry needs House Dems press FCC chairman for answers on false cyberattack claim Overnight Energy: Poll finds majority oppose Trump offshore drilling plan | Senators say Trump endorsed ethanol deal | Automaker group wants to keep increasing efficiency standards MORE (D-Calif.), “Trump’s latest energy plan leaves American energy and innovation in the dark.” The baseless broadside against the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) new Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) rule is, to borrow the words of William Shakespeare, “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

Arguably, McNerney’s views should come as no surprise, considering he worked as an engineer and as a consultant in the highly-subsidized wind industry before joining Congress.

ADVERTISEMENT

CPP, the centerpiece of the Obama administration’s climate change agenda, forced the premature closure of dozens of coal-fired power plants and deserved to be eliminated. CPP would have reduced gross domestic product cumulatively between $700 billion and $1.42 trillion (2009 dollars) by 2040, according to the Energy Information Administration. Furthermore, CPP would have eliminated more than 100,000 jobs annually.

 

Aside from its gargantuan costs, CPP’s legal standing was dubious, which is why, in response to lawsuits brought by more than half the states, the U.S. Supreme Court placed an unprecedented stay on CPP. 

Although the Trump administration was correct in repealing CPP, was a replacement necessary? Probably not, because carbon dioxide is not toxic at foreseeable levels. Therefore, carbon dioxide emissions from humans should not cause further damage. CPP proponents made a claim that it would save lives based on its calculated “co-benefits” — the reduction of regulated pollutants that would decline as a side effect of shutting down coal power plants. However, those pollutants were already being reduced, so no additional lives would have been saved by CPP.

Further, air pollution in the United States does not pose a threat to human health, according to numerous studies. Consequently, reducing pollutants would be unlikely to save any lives. The estimates of premature deaths prevented by pollutant reduction are extremely questionable because they are based on studies that are not replicable. This is the type of “secret science” perpetuated by Obama’s EPA that the Trump administration is working to end.

In contrast to these questionable statistics, the Office of Management and Budget reports every $7.5 million in regulatory costs imposed on the economy results in a life lost. Thus, we can all be thankful CPP never took effect, because it would have resulted in thousands of premature deaths. Because EPA estimates ACE will avert approximately $6.4 billion in costs relative to CPP, contrary to McNerney’s claims, it should produce fewer premature deaths than the Obama rule.

McNerney touts CPP’s renewable energy requirements, as if it’s a positive the solar and wind industries combined make up nearly three times the amount of jobs compared to the coal industry’s workforce. But only a politician would laud an industry simply because of the number of jobs it creates while ignoring all other factors. The goal should always be economic efficiency, the fewest number of resources and people (or labor hours) to produce any given output.

The U.S. Department of Energy reports that in 2016, more than 160,000 coal industry employees produced 30.4 percent of all electricity generated. By comparison, in the same year, it took 374,000 solar industry workers to produce just 0.9 percent of the nation’s total electricity generation and 100,000 wind industry employees to produce 5.6 percent of total electricity. According to these statistics, it takes only one coal industry worker to produce the same amount of electricity as 12 wind industry employees or, even worse, 79 solar industry workers.

Moreover, coal power plants are not subsidized by taxpayers, whereas wind and solar are net drains on taxpayers. Many of the jobs “created” in the solar and wind industries are the result of billions of dollars in federal and state government subsidies, tax credits, loan guarantees, and renewable power mandates.

Furthermore, workers in the coal industry, as opposed to management where the salaries flip, earn more than those who work in the solar industry. For instance, in 2017 the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the average solar installer made $22.60 per hour. By comparison, the average coal extraction worker earned $26.86 per hour.

McNerney's attack on ACE was unwarranted. While I don’t think ACE is necessary, it is much better than CPP. If the stock market gains, employment growth, and gross domestic product expansion are any indication, Trump is well on his way to making America great again, and his free-market climate and energy policies have been critical to this welcome economic resurgence.

 H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D. is a senior fellow on energy and the environment at The Heartland Institute, a nonpartisan, nonprofit research center headquartered in Arlington Heights, Illinois.