So today Obama released the EPA’s final rule for the “Clean Power Plan” that gives the EPA the power to restructure our electric utility industry nationwide. By their own admission, full implementation of the emissions targets will avert only 0.018 degrees C of warming by the year 2100. I’m sure we’ll all notice that much change in temps! But at least now we’ve “taken action” to “save the planet.”
The final rule is nearly 1,600 pages long, and the regulatory impact analysis is nearly 400 pages long, so it will take a while to figure out some of the fine points and where the mischief is. There are a number of important changes from the proposed rule released a year ago. I think I’ve spotted some howlers—including possibly one minor scandal—and I’m working on a magazine article about it for publication later this week. Stay tuned.
Aside from the details and policy levers, I’ve spotted one odd passage right in the middle of the rule that has me scratching my head (p. 636-637 if you’re reading along with me):
As indicated in the RIA [Regulatory Impact Assessment] for this rule, we expect that the main impact of this rule on the nation’s mix of generation will be to reduce coal-fired generation, but in an amount and by a rate that is consistent with recent historical declines in coal-fired generation. Specifically, from approximately 2005 to 2014, coal-fired generation declined at a rate that was greater than the rate of reduced coal-fired generation that we expect from this rulemaking from 2015 to 2030. In addition, under this rule, the trends for all other types of generation, including natural gas-fired generation, nuclear generation, and renewable generation, will remain generally consistent with what their trends would be in the absence of this rule. [Emphasis added.]
This passage is simply astounding. Read it again slowly and ask yourself the question: if the electricity sector under this new regulation is going to unfold more or less along the lines of business as usual, why are we bothering with this regulation in the first place? Is the EPA seriously admitting that their regulation does nothing substantial at all, or that they’ve spotted a parade going down the street and decided to march at the head of it?
One suspects something simpler going on: the EPA is simply lying to us.
Much more to come as we unravel this regulatory onion.