fresh voices from the front lines of change







In December, House Speaker John Boehner famously slammed the Heritage Foundation and other groups that opposed his bipartisan budget agreement before it was announced, saying: “When groups come out and criticize an agreement they’ve never seen, you begin to wonder just how credible those actions are.”

Five months later, Heritage is at it again, along with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, this time jumping the gun on President Obama’s upcoming power plant regulations to protect the climate.

Heritage whipped up an infographic today claiming the regulations, which won’t be unveiled until Monday, would cost the economy nearly 600,000 jobs. What the infographic doesn’t mention is the number comes from a December Heritage report that estimated the cost of a complete phase-out of coal, which the forthcoming regulations doubtfully envision.

The Chamber issued a report yesterday predicting the regulations will cost nearly 450,000 jobs. But as the EPA noted, the Chamber study assumed “that States would need to require carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) for new natural gas plants to hit their goals under the proposal for existing power plants. That’s not true … EPA has indicated frequently that CCS would not be considered for existing power plants. Given that three-fourths of the Chamber’s alleged cost estimates come from power plant construction—namely, natural gas with CCS plants—this assumption drives up the topline cost associated with this study.”

While these groups are exposing their lack of credibility, other businesses are signaling that they will welcome the EPA rules.

The New York Timesreports that the rule will likely give states flexibility in how they implement the rules, including state-based “cap-and-trade” programs that already exist in some areas. And some affected companies are embracing it:

Despite the fierce Republican opposition, a number of officials at electric utilities say they welcome cap-and-trade programs because they offer an affordable and flexible way to comply with the new regulation. “By trading on carbon credits, we’ll be able to achieve significantly more cuts at a lower cost,” said Anthony J. Alexander, president and chief executive of FirstEnergy, an electric utility with power plants in Ohio, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Maryland and New Jersey. “The broader the options, the better off we’re going to be.”

John McManus, vice president of environmental services at American Electric Power, which has coal-fired power plants in 11 states, agreed. “We view cap and trade as having a lot of benefits,” he said. “There’s important design considerations that would have to be factored in, to consider each state’s circumstances. But we think it’s definitely worth looking at. It could keep the cost down. It would allow us to keep coal units running for a more extended period. There are a lot of advantages.”

So it’s important to remember on Monday when the regulations are announced, groups waving scare stats have no credibility. And the Chamber of Commerce is far from the only voice speaking for American business.

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