This column by ACRU Senior Fellow Ken Blackwell was published April 19, 2011 on The Cincinnati Enquirer website.
During a recent speech at Cleveland State focused on small business in Ohio, President Barack Obama described a goal of “knocking down barriers that stand in the way of your growth.” Unfortunately, his EPA couldn’t be more in the dark about how to translate that message into practice – with the agency poised to adopt more than 30 new, major regulations and over 170 major policy rules in the next several months.
Even with 14 million Americans out of work and an economy still searching for light at the end of the tunnel, the EPA is poised to enact a series of back-door mandates that will stifle economic growth. And with the speed that this runaway train is traveling, Ohioans should be scared of the “train wreck” headed toward a town near you.
Unfortunately, everyday Americans may not realize the impact of the EPA’s “train wreck” of new regulations on jobs, the economy and price of essential energy until it’s too late. The truth is, even the EPA itself doesn’t quite know what these regulations might cost to implement – although various outside analysts seem to agree that, at minimum, the 10 major rules that the EPA issued in 2010 could cost the economy at least $23 billion and nearly one million jobs.
No one can say for sure how Ohio will be impacted; we do know that Ohioans will not fare well. That’s because coal generates close to 90 percent of net electricity in Ohio and energy consumption in the state’s industrial sector ranks among the highest in the nation. Put another way, the EPA’s “train wreck” will destroy Ohio’s main electricity source.
According to analysts, this assault on Ohio’s coal-burning power plants transfers directly into at least 10 plant shutdowns – from North Bend to Beverly – and over 1,000 job losses. According to the United Mine Workers of America, national job losses associated with the closure of EPA-targeted coal units could be significant, amounting to more than 50,000 jobs in the coal, utility and rail industries. With Ohio’s unemployment rate still above 9 percent, the EPA “train wreck” would clearly be a major blow to our state.
But the bureaucrats in Washington and the environmental groups intent on stopping the use of coal in America aren’t worried about these good-paying, blue-collar jobs in Ohio. Unfortunately for us, they consider the EPA’s “train wreck” to be an effective means to an end. An end to coal for sure.
But with America being known as the Saudi Arabia of coal, it’s clear that our nation – and especially Ohio – will need to continue relying on our extraordinary domestic reserves of coal as a source of low-cost electricity capable of stimulating and sustaining long-term recovery. So with industry analysts estimating that 22 percent of existing U.S. coal-fired power plants could be shut down, with about 75 gigawatts lost (read: enough electricity to power 56.3 million homes), it is understandable why there is a mounting fear about when this wreck will be coming around the bend.
Unfortunately for the Buckeye state, the EPA has shown that it will blindly push ahead its agenda without regard for potential job losses, electric reliability issues or increased costs for everyday Americans. While there is still time for Congress to limit EPA authority, the bad news is that the train has already left the station and has shown no sign of stopping since this rulemaking process began years ago.
Ohioans can only hope that their state and federal government officials can help spread the word nationally about the repercussions of the EPA “train wreck” in time to successfully stop this runaway train. If not, there will be a price to pay, it will be significant, and it will be borne by us.