The Obama Administration this week unveiled its agenda aimed at combating climate change. The problem is, if we take the President at his word that carbon-based energy (which provides around 80% of all energy used in the U.S. and the world) is damaging the planet, then his plan to regulate energy use in the U.S. will have no significant impact on global carbon dioxide levels.
We can all agree that reducing emissions is a good thing, but methods for emissions reductions should be considered in the context of the economy and U.S. competitiveness. Policy actions that increase the cost of energy will have a direct negative impact on the U.S. economy at a time when jobs and household incomes are the overriding quality of life issues in America.
President Obama mentions that U.S. CO2 emissions are down to where they were 20 years ago. Total U.S. carbon emissions for this year are about 5.2 billion, while the 1990 figure was about 5 billion.
And while he does mention the U.S.’s steady decline of carbon emissions, he fails to mention that China and India will continue to be big emitters and therefore cause global CO2 levels to rise. By hindering U.S. development of a new generation of coal technologies, these overseas emitters will continue to burn coal in the traditional manner and will render U.S. government initiatives moot in terms of the overall global picture.
It is worth noting that in this sweeping proposal there is not serious consideration of nuclear power, the one truly scalable and reliable source of carbon free energy. President Obama mentions the resource once, and that is merely to announce that we are building our first reactors in more than 30 years in Georgia and South Carolina. If the Administration was truly concerned about carbon dioxide levels in the environment, one would think it would be a strong advocate for aggressive expansion in nuclear power. Instead it didn’t have much to say about America’s nuclear future.
The American public should understand that the Administration’s intention is to regulate energy from coal, America’s largest source of electricity, to the point that it’s priced out of the market. In other words, electricity costs will increase, and domestic fuel options, a key U.S. competitive advantage, will decrease. A U.S. economy that has always thrived on abundant, affordable energy could soon be an economy facing energy scarcity, and a sector that has been a foundation of our country and produces numerous high quality jobs will soon be scaled back severely all because we continue to further restrict ourselves while the rest of the world burns on.