Brunell: Quit piling on regulations

President Obama is expected to announce a new set of regulations to limit carbon emissions from coal-powered power plants — the nation’s single largest source of affordable electricity. The impact won’t hit just coal; these regulations will affect every energy user, including you.

  • Wednesday, June 11, 2014 1:21pm
  • Opinion

President Obama is expected to announce a new set of regulations to limit carbon emissions from coal-powered power plants — the nation’s single largest source of affordable electricity. The impact won’t hit just coal; these regulations will affect every energy user, including you.

According the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Obama administration’s new regulations could drain $50 billion a year from the economy through 2030.

The president’s goal is to reduce carbon emissions by 42 percent over the next 16 years, despite the fact that U.S. emissions are at their lowest levels since 1995.

The regulations won’t do much to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions, because 84 precent of the world’s CO2 is produced in other countries. In fact, according to the chamber’s latest research, even with these aggressive regulations, the U.S. will reduce global emissions by less than 2 percent.

What the regulations will do is further weaken our jobless “recovery.” The chamber estimates they will eliminate as many as 224,000 jobs annually and force consumers to pay $289 billion more for electricity.

The irony is all this can be avoided. There is a better way if the president would look to the private sector and consumers for solutions.

Case in point: Florida Power and Light’s new Martin Next Generation Clean Energy Center in south Florida is the first power plant in the country to generate electricity from both solar and natural gas.

When the sun is shining, the plant makes good use of solar to supplement natural gas to ensure its plant produces power at full capacity. At night and on cloudy days, natural gas ensures that FPL customers still can rely on the power they need to live their lives.

Thanks to the combination of natural gas and solar energy, this high-tech power plant provides electricity for 11,000 homes while reducing greenhouse gas emissions each year by more than 62,000 metric tons — the equivalent of the tailpipe emissions of 13,000 cars.

What about carbon dioxide from coal plants?

Linde, a German company, and San Diego’s Sapphire Energy have teamed up to build “green crude” plants that convert carbon emissions from coal-fired and other fossil-fuel power plants into motor and jet fuels.

The Columbus, N.M., project was awarded $104 million in federal funding, including a grant from the United States Department of Energy and a loan guarantee from the United States Department of Agriculture in 2011. Sapphire repaid its loan guarantee to USDA in 2013.

The facility requires high volumes of carbon dioxide, briny water and sunshine to grow algae for green crude. Since coal, gas and biomass power plants produce those greenhouse gases abundantly, it makes sense to find ways to co-locate algae and coal-fired plants.

If allowed to flourish, the creative Americans thriving in our free market system will find better ways to satisfy customers with better products at lower prices.

For example, Hawaii has the highest priced electricity in the nation. Hawaiians pay more than 33 cents per kilowatt hour for electricity, more than four times Washington’s 7.6 cents/kWh.

Even with the most concerted solar and wind power initiatives, by 2030 Hawaii will still receive half of its electricity from fossil fuels. To reduce emissions and lower electricity costs, Hawaiian Electric Co. plans to ship cleaner, more affordable liquefied natural gas from the West Coast to replace crude oil, which often exceeds $100 a barrel.

There is a better way than proposing more onerous job-killing regulations. It’s time to quit piling on government mandates at the state and federal levels and let American ingenuity work. It is that creativity and energy which sets us apart as a great nation.

 

 

Don C. Brunell is a business analyst, writer and columnist. He recently retired as president of the Association of Washington Business, the state’s oldest and largest business organization, and now lives in Vancouver. He can be contacted at theBrunells@msn.com.

 

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