Berry: The Unseen Carbon Agenda

by Edwin Berry, Ref: WSJ

Montana Democrats support these Federal rules.

The White House is pursuing its carbon agenda through regulation, with almost no public attention. The North American Electric Reliability Corporation, a highly regarded federal energy advisory body, released an exhaustive “special assessment” of this covert program.

NERC estimates that the Environmental Protection Agency’s pending electric utility regulations will subtract between 46 and 76 Gigawatts of generating capacity from the U.S. grid by 2015.

To put those numbers in perspective, the worst-case scenario would amount to a reduction of about 7.2% of national power generation, and almost all of it will hit coal-fired plants, the workhorse that supplies a little over half of U.S. electricity.

The EPA’s battery of new rules range from traditional pollutants such as mercury and sulfur to new regulation of coal ash and even water. NERC notes the “pace and aggressiveness” of so many new rules is unprecedented. These estimates don’t  include the EPA’s looming carbon “endangerment” rules.

The White House and EPA are targeting fossil fuels and coal in particular to achieve what even the Democratic 111th Congress rejected as legislation.

As much as a fifth of the perfectly functioning coal-fired fleet will be forced into early retirement, to be replaced with a largely more expensive energy mix, especially natural gas.

Some plants can be retrofit with new environmental controls like scrubbers, but this is nearly as costly as building new plants from scratch. Just as you can’t replace your car engine while heading down the highway at 75 mph, this will still require shut downs in the interim, for at least five years.

Credit Suisse estimates that compliance will cost as much as $150 billion in capital investment by the end of the decade. This raise electricity prices, which is the same as a tax increase on businesses and consumers.

NERC also warns of “deteriorating resource adequacy” and of the logistic reality that replacing or upgrading so much capacity so fast may lead to brownouts and shortages.

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