On the campaign trail, Barack Obama says he is for an "all of the above" energy policy.
The reality is quite different. His administration, especially the Environmental Protection Agency, is engaged in a war on coal that threatens America's long-term energy security. Put simply, they want to shut down all the coal-fired power plants producing electricity in the United States and are using regulatory mandates to try and do it.
Under Obama, the EPA has proposed and promulgated the Utility Maximum Achievable Control Technology rule—more commonly known as "Utility MACT"— imposing expensive control retrofits on coal-fired plants. The agency itself estimates the costs to the economy because of the new rule will be $10 billion per year. Private studies indicate it is more likely to be twice that, leading to higher electricity rates and, when combined with new rules on so-called "greenhouse gases," force most of these plants to close.
It's probably the most expensive rule the EPA has ever put forward. It's also anti-technology, failing to take into account the tremendous advances the industry has made in making coal-fired plants cleaner over the last several decades. Above all that, however, it's yet another example of the typically one-sided thinking that accompanies new regulatory efforts, particularly in the environmental arena.
The new rule may—emphasis on may—produce some marginal health benefits because it forces a miniscule reduction in amount of mercury released into the atmosphere, which advocates cite as an important step forward. What it doesn't take into account is all the bad things that will happen as a result of the new rule going into effect like, for example, the health impact of higher electricity rates on the elderly and others living on fixed incomes.
There are some who are sensitive to this. Oklahoma Sen. Jim Inhofe is using the Congressional Review Act to try and get a vote disapproving of the new rule. His effort, S.J. Res. 37, is likely to be on the Senate floor sometime next week and only needs a simply majority to pass.
It's critical to America's long-term interests that Inhofe's effort succeeds. Otherwise a lot of people will be lighting candles and cursing the darkness.