Is It Worth Tripling US Electricity Rates as a Symbolic Gesture?Alan Carlin | April 1, 2016
On July 9, 2015 EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy claimed that the purpose of EPA’s “Clean Power Plan” to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plant emissions, was “in showing strong domestic action which can actually trigger global action to address what’s a necessary action to protect” [presumably against climate change]. I have argued that the Plan will increase US electricity prices by a factor of between three or four based on European experience. In December, 2015, a UN climate conference was held in Paris which endorsed unenforceable reductions in CO2 emissions by the countries of the world, particularly the wealthier nations.
On March 23, 2016, after the December UN climate conference, Ms. McCarthy characterized the purpose of the Plan as “As having had enormous benefit in showing sort of domestic leadership as well as garnering support around the country for the agreement we reached in Paris.” As her questioner, Representative David McKinley (R-WV), put it concerning the success of her July purpose: “But even then no one is following us.” “Since that Paris accord China has already announced that they’re going to put up 360 [coal plants]. India has announced that they’re going to double their use of coal since the Paris accord.”
In neither case did McCarthy argue that the Plan would result in any significant reduction in CO2 levels or global temperatures.
As McKinley pointed out, it appears evident that the Paris conference did not “trigger global action” as McCarthy had argued that it would in July, but that has not stopped her from pursuing her latest symbolic argument for the EPA regulations. The regulations are a very high price to pay not to achieve even the symbolic purposes McCarthy claimed they would in July or her revised March, 2016 purposes either. It is hard to believe that tripling or quadrupling electricity costs would garner much support among voters, particularly less wealthy voters, once they start paying them.