Why It’s Wise for Trump’s EPA to Repeal Obama’s Clean Power Plan

It doesn’t say a lot for the Clean Power Plan (CPP) that 27 states filed legal challenges against it in 2015. Or that the U.S. Supreme Court issued a stay barring its implementation in February 2016.

Former President Barack Obama issued the CPP more than two years ago in an effort to demonstrate U.S. leadership in reducing power-sector carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.

A majority of states subsequently opposed the plan’s intrusive overreach, though — and argued that it granted the EPA broad new powers never before identified in the Clean Air Act.

Thankfully, EPA administrator Scott Pruitt is announcing a repeal of the CPP and will be seeking comments from the energy industry on a potential replacement rule.

Americans should hope that Pruitt will take his time in formulating a new plan, however, since it’s questionable whether any amount of CO2 reductions would actually have a meaningful impact on global climate.

It’s projected that the CPP would have achieved only a theoretical 0.018 degrees Celsius reduction in temperatures by the year 2100. But even this minuscule achievement would have entailed massive sacrifices on the part of U.S. consumers and domestic industry.

Ironically, even as the United States took on such massive obligations, China and India would still be free to build new coal plants. So any CO2 reductions on the part of the U.S. would simply have been swallowed up by emissions from new coal plants overseas.

More troubling is that the Obama administration had few qualms about granting the EPA such far-reaching control over the nation’s power grid.

The result would have been an EPA trying to simultaneously safeguard America’s baseload power while also overseeing the elimination of 25 percent of the nation’s coal fleet — affecting enough power to supply 24 million homes.

Under the CPP, typical annual household electricity bills were projected to climb by more than a third in 2020 from 2012 — for an average annual increase of $680. And 45 states would have seen double-digit monthly increases in electricity costs.

These are hard costs to swallow for working America, and it matters all the more when one considers that coal and nuclear power currently generate 50 percent of U.S. electricity.

Since nuclear plants are already saddled with heavy replacement costs, the loss of more robust coal-fired power would have stretched the U.S. power grid thinner during periods of peak use.

What President Obama overlooked in launching the CPP is that market-based incentives can provide some of the same CO2 reductions without threatening baseload power capacity. Scrubbers and other emissions controls have already cut U.S. coal plant emissions 91 percent since 1970.

But advanced new high-efficiency, low-emission (HELE) systems — including “ultra-supercritical” boilers — are poised to significantly reduce CO2 emissions thanks to greater thermal efficiencies.

Federal incentives for such increased power plant efficiency could accomplish the same thing as heavy-handed plant closures since every one percent improvement in the efficiency of a conventional coal plant yields two to three times the reduction in CO2.

What the U.S. should be doing is leading the global charge toward a higher-efficiency fleet. Boosting the average global efficiency rate of coal-fired plants from 33 percent to 40 percent would remove the equivalent of India’s annual CO2 emissions.

Overall, the U.S. should embrace advanced coal plants as a reliable means of achieving baseload power, and thus set an example for developing nations as they build their own fleets.

Industrialized nations will continue to use coal to power their economies. And coal will also be lifting developing countries out of energy poverty.

So when Scott Pruitt officially repeals the CPP, he should use the opportunity to encourage greater U.S. investment and deployment of new emissions technologies.

This would ensure continued affordable, reliable power in the U.S. and aid the proliferation of smarter, cleaner plants overseas.

Terry Jarrett is an energy attorney and consultant who has served on both the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners and the Missouri Public Service Commission.

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Comments (5)

  • Avatar

    Spurwing Plover


    Like with most all of Obamas plans their all based upon politics and Junk Science its all about World Goverment under the Useless Nations

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    The Obama business model was get rich through government
    government handouts and legislated demand .
    The Chicago Climate Exchange and billions to “renewable ” pals
    in the form of mandatory use businesses are distorting markets just like the limitless credit card politicians have no problem agreeing to.
    Accountability and trust act as glue to keep society together not
    fake businesses , $$Trillions in debt and government overreach .

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    The ” clean ” energy plan of the
    Obaman imposture
    was nothing but a scheme to strangle the USA economy and
    prevent USA production of durable heavy industry goods
    Thereby even making the USA military
    entirely dependent on foreign sources.

  • Avatar

    David Lewis


    This article takes the practical stand that CPP puts an excessive burned on the US for very little benefit. For that reason, it should be abandoned. However, it is assuming that the alarmist version of climate change is correct. That is not true.

    There have been multiple articles on this site showing that man’s contribution to warming is very small and others showing that the warming comes from cooking the books and isn’t real at all. For that reason we don’t need to replace the CPP.

  • Avatar

    Spurwing Plover


    We need to harness the Hot Air coming from the various eco-wacko groups celeberties and politicians pushing this Global Warming/Climate Change poppycock and put their Hot Air to Good Use

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