EPA Admits Greenhouse Gas Rule Will Do Little to Curb Emissions

Sep 23, 2013

EPA building in Washington, DC. Photographer: Billy Hathorn via Wikimedia Commons. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license.

EPA’s proposed greenhouse gas emission regulation on new power plants will have a “negligible” environmental effect according to the agency’s own analysis.

Case Western Reserve Law School professor Jonathan Adler found this paragraph tucked away in EPA’s Regulatory Impact Analysis (RIA) [emphasis mine]:

The EPA anticipates that the proposed EGU New Source GHG Standards will result in negligible CO2 emission changes, energy impacts, quantified benefits, costs, and economic impacts by 2022. Accordingly, the EPA also does not anticipate this rule will have any impacts on the price of electricity, employment or labor markets, or the US economy.

Yet EPA administrator Gina McCarthy touts this rule as an “important step” to fight “carbon pollution.”

If this proposed regulation will have little effect, why press for it? The answer is because it will improve the prospects of Carbon Capture and Sequestration (CCS) technology, according to EPA.

Wait, didn’t EPA administrator McCarthy tell the House Energy and Commerce Committee last week that CCS is already “feasible.” She has more confidence in the technology than her agency. The RIA states that because “CCS technologies have had limited application to date,” the proposed regulation would “incentivize innovation” leading to performance improvement and cost reductions.

You have to love EPA’s circular logic. Through the regulatory process, it wants to push a technology that is supposedly “feasible” in order to incentivize its innovation in order to make it feasible.

The fact is, while CCS has promise, experts acknowledge that it is decades away from economic viability. Norway provided the latest example when it announced that it will stop funding the Mongstad CCS projectA regulation declaring CCS technology mature will not make it so.  This is poor policymaking for sure.

UPDATE: Benjamin Zycher of the American Enterprise Institute comments on EPA's twisted logic:

So: EPA is arguing simultaneously that CCS technology has been “demonstrated” to be the BSER [best system of emission reduction]—as a legal matter, EPA must take that position if it is to require such emission control technology as a practical matter for new coal plants—and that a benefit of the proposed rule is a (dubious) increase in the research and development of CCS technology. To say that this is an attempt to have it both ways would be a vast understatement.

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