Thursday, November 5, 2015

Will Global Warming Legislation Actually Kill Americans?

Updated December 2016

A recent analysis by the Institute for Energy Research looks at the potentially high human cost of the American "Clean Power Plan" for the nation's existing power plants.  In this plan, the Obama Administration has set "strong but achievable standards" for power plants and "customized goals" for states to cut the level of carbon pollution that is leading to global climate change.  Through this plan, the EPA hopes to cut carbon pollution to show the world that the United States is serious about addressing climate change.  

The Clean Power Plan creates a partnership between the Environmental Protection Agency and state governments by setting carbon dioxide emission performance rates for fossil fuel-fired electric power generation units that will be implemented over the period between 2022 and 2029 with the goal of meeting performance targets by 2030.  This can be done in one of the four following ways, termed "building blocks":

Building Block 1: reducing the carbon intensity of electricity generation by improving the heat rate of existing coal-fired power plants.

Building Block 2: substituting energy generation from lower emission sources (i.e. natural gas) for higher emission sources (i.e. coal).

Building Block 3: substituting energy generation from zero emission sources (i.e. wind and solar) for higher emission sources (i.e. coal).

Building Block 4: increases in end user efficiencies.

Here is a map showing the target carbon dioxide emission rate reductions that will be required for each state that will allow them to meet the 2030 target relative to the 2012 emission rate:

States can also meet their emissions goal through emissions trading.  States must submit a final plan by September 6, 2018 which must meet the goal of reducing U.S. power plant carbon dioxide emissions by 30 percent in 2030 (compared to the 2005 emission levels).

Let's look at what the Environmental Protection Agency has to say about the benefits of implementing the Clean Power Plan.  The EPA projects that implementation of the Clean Power Plan will result in the following financial benefits:

1.) climate benefits of $20 billion
2.) health benefits of $14 to $34 billion
3.) net benefits of $26 to $45 billion

The EPA notes that electricity costs would increase only slightly in the early years of the Plan's implementation and would save consumers money on their electricity bills by 2030.

Since carbon pollution is associate with other dangerous air pollutants, the Plan will also protect human health in the following ways:

1.) annual reduction of 3,600 premature deaths by 2030
2.) annual reduction of 1,700 heart attacks
3.) annual reduction of 90,000 asthma attacks
4.) annual reduction of 300,000 missed work and school days

Now, let's look at what the Institute for Energy Research (IER) has to say about the Clean Power Plan.  The analysis begins by noting that there will a significant cost to implementing the Plan, totalling $479 billion over the 15 year period from 2017 to 2031 if only the first two building blocks are implemented (as noted above) according to a study completed for the coal industry (among others) by NERA Economic Consulting (National Economic Research Associates).   Consumers and businesses would pay $41 billion or more for electricity annually and residents in 43 states would see 12 to 17 percent increases in their electricity bills over the 15 year period.  Here is a map showing the price increases from 2017 to 2031 on electricity prices if Building Blocks 1 to 4 are implemented:

Here is a map showing the price increases from 2017 to 2031 if Building Blocks 1 and 2 are implemented:

Thanks to higher energy costs, the NERA study estimates that there will be a $366 billion loss in GDP by 2031 and another study by the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association estimates that GDP losses could total $5.4 trillion if electricity prices rise by 25 percent.  The 25 percent increase in electricity prices would also result in the loss of 2.2 million jobs by 2021.

The IER goes on to note that the benefits of implementing the Clean Power Plan would be far outstripped by the costs since the Plan would limit global warming by only 0.02 degrees and sea level rises by 0.01 inch.

Now, let's look at the really scary part of the IER analysis.  While the EPA estimated that there would be an annual reduction in the number of premature deaths, rising from 200 in 2020 to 1900 in 2025 and 3600 in 2030 for total avoided premature deaths of 21,000 between 2020 and 2030.  IER and NERA note the following:

"At the same time, however, the EPA ignores the health-wealth link that demonstrates that the plan could actually have a large negative impact on health in America. By closing down existing coal-fired power plants and replacing them with new, costly alternatives like wind and solar power, the plan will increase electricity prices, destroy jobs, and decrease Americans’ disposable income. This is especially true for the poor, sick, and mentally ill, who spend a greater percentage of their income on energy."

IER and NERA estimate that the health-wealth connection to the implementation of the Clean Power Plan could result in 35,000 premature deaths in total by 2030 meaning that implementation of the Plan would cause 14,000 more premature deaths than it prevents (35,000 minus 21,000).

In closing, now that you've read through this entire posting and absorbed the results of the IER analysis, you might find the following information interesting.  The Institute for Energy Research was founded in 1989 from a predecessor non-profit organization that was registered by Charles G. Koch, one of the Koch brothers of Koch Industries fame.  IER describes itself as:

"...a not-for-profit organization that conducts intensive research and analysis on the functions, operations, and government regulation of global energy markets. IER maintains that freely-functioning energy markets provide the most efficient and effective solutions to today’s global energy and environmental challenges and, as such, are critical to the well-being of individuals and society.

Founded in 1989 from a predecessor organization, IER is a public foundation under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code and is funded entirely by tax deductible contributions from individuals, foundations and corporations. No financial support is sought for or accepted from government sources." 
Government funding sources would be the least of IER’s problem.  Since 1998, ExxonMobil has donated $307,000 to IER.  Keeping in mind that the American Energy Alliance describes itself as the "independent grassroots affiliate of the Institute for Energy Research", here is a listing of donors to the group(s):

Just in case you wondered, Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce is the funding arm of the political network backed by the Koch Brothers.

This tells us why it's always important to understand who is funding anti-climate change research!

1 comment:

  1. I think it would be so much easier to make a law that all new construction has to incorporate solar and other "green" technology. The up front cost would not be that much to add solar panels and geo thermal systems to all new buildings. Plus this would give incentive to reuse existing buildings rather and just putting up new ones while old buildings sit vacant. Those two simple systems would greatly lower buildings energy use. Obviously since its new construction the roofs can be built at optimal angles and direction for maximum solar efficiency.