The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has recently unveiled a proposal to radically limit emissions from fossil fuel power plants. The plan, if finalized, would require almost all U.S. coal plants to significantly cut or capture nearly all their carbon dioxide emissions by 2038 or face closure. The implications of this move are far-reaching and raise significant concerns.
The EPA’s proposal also targets large, frequently utilized gas-fired power plants. These plants would be required to capture smokestack emissions using a technology that, while often promised, is not widely used in the United States. This approach, while well-intended, may prove to be a costly experiment.
.@JoeBiden with the help of @SenWhitehouse and @SenJackReed are trying to destroy our country's economy and the financial security of hardworking Americans by using regulations to increase the cost of electricity crushing levels. @EPA releases new rule on fossil-burning plants,…
— Patricia Morgan (@repmorgan) May 12, 2023
The EPA’s newly proposed standards are expected to increase retail electricity and natural gas prices delivered to the power sector. This would hit the average American hard in the pocketbook, raising questions about the affordability of this green transition.
Furthermore, coal-fired power plants, which have long been a dependable and cost-effective source of electricity, are expected to bear the brunt of the new regulations. The EPA’s impact analysis filing projected that U.S. electric generation from coal plants without carbon capture will decline 67% by 2030 and 100% by 2035. This could result in the premature closure of these plants, posing a risk to the power grid’s reliability.
All four Federal Energy Regulatory Commission members recently expressed concern about the early retirement of coal-fired power generation. In addition, the North American Electric Reliability Corporation warned of potential capacity shortfalls due to early fossil fuel retirements. Ignoring these warnings could lead to severe consequences.
Indeed, critics argue that the EPA’s proposed rule is more far-reaching than the Clean Power Plan. For example, Jason Isaac, an energy expert at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, claimed that the carbon capture technologies the EPA is pushing are so expensive that they will lead to the sudden retirement of reliable generation, with nothing to replace it.
This proposal also faces potential legal challenges. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June 2022 that an Obama-era rule limiting power plant emissions under the Clean Air Act was unconstitutional, as Congress never granted the EPA the explicit power to issue such regulations.
The proposed regulations could force America’s energy sector into a corner. Of course, pursuing cleaner, more sustainable energy sources is essential. Still, it’s equally important to ensure a smooth transition that does not compromise the country’s energy security, economic stability, or the financial well-being of the American people.