The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has released new emissions rules for coal- and natural gas-fired powerplants. Again. The new rules target greenhouse gases and requires electric utility companies to cut emissions “by 90 percent — or shut down.”
The Biden Administration, eager to revive the Obama era’s Clean Power Plan, wants America to run largely on green energy—and is prepared to pay, prod, and punish to get what it wants. No matter that federal green energy subsidies may cost three times their original estimates, which inevitably will fan the flames of inflation and demand higher taxes. No matter that letting newer, cleaner natural gas plants replace the country’s retiring fossil fuel plants will steadily reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. Washington prefers regulation to innovation.
But Biden’s EPA is not the only one on a quixotic quest to replace gas turbines with windmills. California Governor Gavin Newsom has been even more aggressive, with plans to ban the sale of gas-powered cars statewide in pursuit of a net-zero greenhouse gas, carbon-free economy by 2045. Unfortunately for Newsom and California taxpayers, “carbon-free” economies aren’t free. They aren’t even cheap. They’re expensive.
California has pledged $38 billion in climate change investments. One way or another, California taxpayers will eventually ante up each of those investment dollars. And as The Buckeye Institute’s economic model recently estimated, California’s top-down energy mandates that force power grids from affordable natural gas to high-priced green energy will likely add an average of $650 per year to every electricity bill in the state.
Tens of thousands of Californians, fed up with higher energy costs and burdensome energy mandates, have voted with their feet by moving out of state to states like Ohio that embrace free market energy policies.
Unfortunately, the Biden plan would impose the types of expensive and unworkable policies imposed from Sacramento that we’ve experienced for too long on every other state. Californians living in energy poverty, spending more than 10 percent of their incomes on energy, would no longer be able to escape.
Consider how the Biden plan would impact energy costs in Ohio, for example. To comply with a zero-emissions mandate, Ohio energy prices would rise and families would pay an extra $810 per year for the same electricity they use today.
And the other states would be hard-pressed transitioning to renewable energy. No other state in the country has California’s long, windswept coastline to generate wind energy, and only Arizona sees more sun. Skies across most of the Midwest model some shade of gray most of the year. Michigan and Ohio, for example, have less than halfof California’s average annual sunshine. It’s hard to charge solar panels that will generate enough cost-effective kilowatts to run an electric grid on less than 70 clear days a year.
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Energy consumption in California and Ohio also differ greatly. Ohio’s economy still boasts a sizable manufacturing segment. As a share of state GDP, manufacturing is one-third higher in Ohio than it is in California. And manufacturing plants consume vast amounts of energy to run. Higher energy costs will hit higher energy consumers—like manufacturers—much harder than other industries. And those higher costs will ultimately be passed along to wholesalers, retailers, and shoppers in Ohio, California and every state through more expensive goods and services.
The bottom line — reduced energy reliability, more regular power blackouts, and much higher costs are not something that should be exported from California to the rest of the country.
Whether federal- or state-imposed, misguided efforts to push President Biden’s new emissions standards and California’s green energy mandates across Ohio and other cloudy industrial states will shrink their economies, reduce their wages, squeeze their profit-margins, and raise their prices. Carbon-free is not free, and whether the green lobby will admit it or not, workers, families, and businesses across the country will be made to pay.
Rea S. Hederman Jr. is executive director of the Economic Research Center at The Buckeye Institute in Ohio. Wayne Winegarden is a senior fellow in business and economics at Pacific Research Institute in California.