Carbon battle lines drawn

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by Eric Ellman

The House Energy and Commerce Sub Committee invited Obama administration officials to a hearing Wednesday to discuss proposed new rules to limit carbon emissions.  EPA chief administrator Gina McCarthy and Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz were the lone representatives from eleven agencies invited to testify before a panel whose leadership reiterated their skepticism about the existence of global warming and scoffed at EPA’s efforts to confront it.  Chairman Ed Whitfield of Kentucky cited agency rules for the closure of “291 coal units in 2012 … and 151 coal mines in 2013.”   The low price of natural gas didn’t seem to enter into those calculations nor his conclusion that new regulations would kill the industry. 

Energy Secretary Moniz announced that the Obama administration will provide billions of dollars to assist companies in implementing carbon capture and storage technology to meet the new rules.  And EPA Administrator McCarthy described four projects already under way that demonstrate the technology is feasible.  But the sub committee’s leadership wasn’t buying it.   Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL) assailed the expense of the technology (Bloomberg News reports that the Kemper County, Mississippi plant that McCarthy referenced will be among the most expensive per BTU ever built). 

Representative Whitfield plans to propose legislation to strip EPA of the funds to implement the rules which he predicted would make American first country in the world to ban new coal-fired plants. Though he obviously considered that a criticism, some might consider that leadership.