James Taylor, Contributor, Forbes (http://www.forbes.com/sites/jamestaylor/2011/12/22/merry-christmas-america-now-give-us-your-money-love-epa/)
If you found it difficult this year to save enough money to purchase Christmas gifts for your loved ones, just wait until 2012. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency yesterday announced new mercury restrictions on coal power plants that will impose anywhere from $10 billion (EPA’s estimate) to $200 billion (third-party estimates) in new costs on energy production. On a per household basis, that imposes anywhere from $100 to $2,000 in additional energy costs on the average U.S. household each and every year.
Although the new restrictions do not take effect until 2015, energy providers will have to take immediate action to meet the deadline. U.S. electricity prices have already increased by nearly 50 percent during the past decade, and EPA’s new restrictions will merely accelerate that trend. Start taking still more money out of next year’s Christmas envelope and transfer it over to the monthly electricity envelope.
Despite the high costs, perhaps the new restrictions would make sense if the United States faced a severe and worsening environmental mercury problem. Exactly the opposite is the case.
EPA reports that mercury emissions in the United States have declined by approximately 60% since 1990. The dramatic reduction in mercury emissions is consistent with the reduction in air pollution across the board. EPA reports that emissions of the Six Principal Pollutants it monitors have decreased by 67% since 1980. This trend will continue even without EPA’s new mercury restrictions, as natural gas continues to claim an ever-greater share of electricity output in the nation. Natural gas power is dramatically cleaner than coal power and cuts most emissions by 80 to 100 percent. Natural gas cuts mercury emissions by more than 90% in relation to coal.
Still further, there would be little reason for concern even if the dramatic and ongoing decline in mercury and other emissions were not already taking place. As scientist Willie Soon summarized in a Wall Street Journal article earlier this year, “To build its case against mercury, the EPA systematically ignored evidence and clinical studies that contradict its regulatory agenda, which is to punish hydrocarbon use.”
Soon presented more than 80 pages of research supporting his article, documenting that environmental mercury levels in the United States are far from being a serious health threat. Soon demonstrated how EPA conducted no original research and cherry-picked available studies to present the bleakest possible picture regarding environmental mercury and human health. In doing so, EPA relied on the studies with glaring scientific flaws while ignoring much more credible studies showing no serious health risks.
Given the long-term improvement in our nation’s air quality and the steep price of the new restrictions, the timing and rationale of EPA’s decision seem rather curious. However, environmental activist groups have long since abandoned sound science and cost-benefit analyses in their war on conventional energy. Oil, coal, natural gas, nuclear, and hydro-power are the enemy. Anything short of wind and solar power, with a very few minor exceptions, are to be fought at all costs. And even wind and solar power are mere bridges to a future where energy usage is restricted to our most basic needs.
In the meantime, if global warming can justify shutting down coal power plants, then play up global warming fears. If flimsy mercury studies can justify shutting down coal power plants, then play up mercury fears. And if mercury emissions are already in rapid decline anyway, keep claiming our nation’s air quality keeps getting worse and hope that the truth doesn’t get out.
Merry Christmas, now give us more of your money.