The following column by NFIB/Tennessee State Director Jim Brown originally ran in the Aug. 13 edition of the Chattanooga Times Free Press.
There’s no such thing as a free lunch. Someone always has to pay. Always.
That’s certainly the case with the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan. While the plan apparently has support in some circles, the truth is that implementing it won’t be cheap.
In fact, according to a Heritage Foundation analysis of Energy Information Agency data, it’s going to cost the U.S. economy something in the range of $150 billion a year.
That works out to $1,700 a year for a family of four.
Put simply, the rule amounts to a massive tax on the price of electricity, one that we simply can’t afford to pay.
Of course, it isn’t just families that would feel the pinch. Small businesses, the engine that drives our economy, would have to spend more on energy, and that, in turn, would push up prices on absolutely everything.
EIA data suggest that the financial pressure on businesses would be so great that many of them would have to eliminate jobs so they could afford to keep the doors open. Based on the agency’s data, it’s estimated that job losses could amount to nearly half a million a year by the late 2020s.
It’s unknown how many of these job losses could come from small businesses, because the EPA didn’t even actually consider how the rules would affect small employers. Instead, they considered the direct effects on small power generation facilities. My association, the National Federation of Independent Business, filed comments with the EPA pointing out this oversight. Our comments were ignored.
The rule would hit Tennessee hard, because coal-fired power plants generate 41 percent of the state’s electricity; natural gas, another fossil fuel that would be affected by the EPA’s rule, generates another 6 percent. Wind, solar and other alternative sources of energy either aren’t readily available or would be too expensive to make up the difference.
Plus, the cost of goods will rise across the country. A business operating in our state may have suppliers in the harder hit areas of the country.
State legislators are being driven by the administration to cooperate by creating plans that meet the federal government’s harsh standards. It’s an almost impossible choice they face: go along, or leave the tough decisions to Washington regulators.
On Wednesday (Aug. 5), 16 states asked the EPA to put its Power Plant Rule on hold pending an expected legal challenge. They are Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, Wisconsin and Wyoming.
Congress shouldn’t take this lying down. Already, the House has passed legislation that would let states opt out of the rule if they find that electric rates will rise sharply. There is companion legislation introduced in the Senate, but it hasn’t gotten a vote yet.
If this rule goes into effect, it will be painful for small businesses and for family budgets. At a time when the nation is struggling to come out of the recession, the EPA’s actions threaten to create another economic crisis.