Republicans were almost unanimous in their reactions to today’s new EPA rule: Whatever it is, they’re against it.
On Monday, President Obama announced a new proposal to cut carbon emissions by 30 percent, the most ambitious measure to combat climate change from this or any other administration. Republicans were less than enthused. A little past 9 am, the Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) called the plan “nuts.”
— Speaker John Boehner (@SpeakerBoehner) June 2, 2014
On his official website, Boehner specified what was so nutty about it:
“The president’s plan would indeed cause a surge in electricity bills – costs stand to go up $17 billion every year. But it would also shut down plants and potentially put an average of 224,000 more people out of work every year.”
The problem with these figures, as Politifact points out, is that they’re false. It would have been difficult for the Speaker to read all 645 pages of the new EPA proposal before he started bashing it, so he took his estimates from a U.S. Chamber of Commerce study that was released in May. In the study, the Chamber assumes the EPA will cut emissions by 42 percent and force new natural gas plants to use carbon capture and storage technology. By contrast, the actual EPA plan proposes to cut emissions by 30 percent and will not require new natural gas plants to use carbon capture tech.
This discrepancy renders Boehner’s words overblown and the Chamber’s estimates obsolete. Yet the fear-mongering continues.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) equated the new plan to “a dagger in the heart of the American middle-class, and to representative Democracy itself.”
Reince Priebus, the Republican National Committee Chairman, said Obama’s “my-way-or-the-highway approach” to his presidency “explains why he’s shoving these EPA regulations down our throat.”
U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) published a statement criticizing the proposal:
“Despite negative economic growth last quarter, and despite far better approaches pending in Congress to promote energy efficiency and energy innovation, the president has decided to push ahead and propose a sweeping new regulation on our still-weak economy.”
The “far better approaches pending in Congress” is an interesting line, especially when the Senate refused to “promote energy efficiency and energy innovation” measures when a House-approved cap-and-trade bill hit the floor in 2009. The Senate refused to sign it.
The only prominent Republican who seems enthusiastic about the rule is former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger:
“I applaud President Obama for using every tool at his disposal and not waiting for Congress or a new international treaty. California and nine Eastern states have used similar policies, including an effective cap-and-trade system, which can serve as a national model to help our country achieve the president’s goals. The experiences of those states also prove that this is not a Democrat or Republican issue, it’s a people issue.”
So is President Obama really, as Senator McConnell claims, plunging a dagger into the heart of representative Democracy? Salon’s Lindsay Abrams begs to disagree:
“Republicans are accusing Obama of bypassing Congress — which he is, but only because this Congress refuses to act, and because a previous Congress, way back in 1990, gave the EPA authority to regulate emissions that threaten public health. In 2007, the Supreme Court ruled that carbon dioxide emissions count.”
And initial estimates from the EPA put the costs of the new rule much lower than the alarmists claim. Under the 30 percent cut (which actually figures to just a 15 percent cut from current levels), electricity costs are projected to be 8 percent lower by 2030 than they would otherwise be.
While the Chamber of Commerce predicted that the costs would rack up to $50.2 billion per year, the actual plan would be closer to $8.8 billion at the high end. Still a significant amount, but there is a human factor to be considered. The reduction in air pollution would save 6,600 lives per year, as well as $50 billion in annual healthcare costs.
EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy is adamant that this new emission standard will save Americans money in the long run. Not only to 2030, but beyond. In 2012, she explained, climate and weather disasters cost Americans a total of $100 billion in damages. By cutting carbon, the U.S. is making a definitive choice to protect its future.
More Republican criticism is sure to follow, though perhaps the party will attempt to read the new regulation before tweeting its evils to their constituents. Then again, 140 characters makes for a much better soundbite than a cogent summation of impending climate disasters.