Daniel Kish is the senior vice president for policy at the Institute for Energy Research.
The real story of how regulatory abuse harms entire communities in profound ways can be observed in the story of Craig, Colo. The small western town of Craig is home to a baseload power plant that provides 1,311 megawatts of coal-fired power to an area covering three states. Much of the town of Craig is employed either at the plant or at the surface mine directly adjacent to it.
Because the livelihood of Craig is so dependent on the plant and mine, the residents feel firsthand the negative impacts of stifling restrictions on energy production and electricity generation in every aspect of day-to-day life.
Take, for example, Frank and Kerrie Moe, small business owners who operate a hotel in Craig that services business related to the energy sector. For the first time in 15 years, the Moes had to lay off employees due to dwindling numbers of hotel guests. Their story, and the story of the town of Craig, is documented in this short video, produced by the American Energy Alliance:
Colorado, which also has a statewide renewable energy mandate, is a ground zero for the latest government intervention in energy, destroying jobs and economic growth in the process. The Obama administration's upcoming Mercury Air Toxics Standards and Cross-State Air Pollution Rule are estimated to force more than 33 gigawatts of electricity offline due to plant closures—which is 10 percent of our coal-fired generating capacity—and together these rules are projected to increase electricity by as much as 23 percent in some areas.
Surprisingly, the mercury standard and the air pollution rule are being proposed at a time when our air is cleaner than at any point in the last 40 years—according to the EPA's own data—and yet these rules are estimated to destroy 183,000 jobs per year from 2012-2020 if implemented. This policy is indefensible at a time when Americans most need jobs and affordable energy.
The goal of bankrupting coal plants—as then-Senator Obama said he would in a 2008 press conference—is even less defensible when taken into account with the treatment of all types of affordable energy. The president's recently unveiled Fiscal Year 2013 budget proposes at least $66 billion in new taxes on the oil and gas industry, and other restrictions on energy development on federal lands.
Currently, a meager 6 percent of onshore and 2 percent of offshore lands are open to energy production, and the administration's recent decision to close off 75 percent of Western lands with oil shale resources to development—petroleum resources that are nearly 5 times the amount of oil as Saudi Arabia's proven reserves—is a crucial step in the wrong direction for U.S. energy security.
The federal government's regulatory overreach and its continued unwillingness to allow the production of domestic energy resources call into question the president's stated commitment to an "all of the above" energy policy. With gas prices projected to reach $4 a gallon by May of this year, now would be the time to make good on that promise.
Americans living in Craig, Colo.—and across the entire country—need the jobs and economic expansion that a successful energy policy would create. And while the president is pushing his so-called "all of the above" energy policies, Americans would do well to remember that every administration policy to date has effectively embargoed all the taxpayer-owner energy resources that are below our feet—coal, oil, and natural gas.