Earlier this month, the Biden administration proposed an extensive decrease in greenhouse gas emissions from U.S. power plants. This plan would require power plants to install billions of dollars worth of new equipment to dramatically curb the emission of CO2 into the atmosphere. Power plants would be required to implement the new technology or face total shutdowns. Will Biden’s crackdown on power plant emissions be helpful or harmful?
This proposed plan by Biden’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is a continuation of the ongoing transition to green and renewable energy. This plan represents one of the most significant moves by the administration in its climate change efforts. However, the proposed plan has been met with polarizing views.
The Costly Proposal
The proposal by the EPA would require coal and gas-fired power plants to nearly eliminate carbon dioxide emissions in as little as a decade. The stringent requirements placed on power plants to decrease CO2 emissions would put in place carbon-catching equipment to capture roughly 90% of carbon dioxide from the power plant’s smoke stack. Installing this equipment is a multi-billion dollar requirement that could force the shutdown of many American power plants.
The EPA estimates that the power industry will need over $10 billion to adhere to the proposed regulations. American power plants also have the alternative option of switching to lower-emission hydrogen fuel to create electricity. However, this endeavor would be comparable in cost to the new equipment.
This proposal by the EPA has been met with loud opposition from Republicans across the nation. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell says, “Complying with Washington bureaucrats’ latest wishes requires technology that producers cannot access, costs that they cannot swallow, and pain that lower-income ratepayers cannot stomach…”
Senate Environment and Public Works Committee ranking member Shelley Moore added, ”The Clean Power Plan 2.0 announced today is the Biden administration’s most blatant attempt yet to close down power plants and kill American energy jobs….”
While the face of energy is changing, the aggressive proposal by the Biden Administration could be overreaching and overly ambitious. As well, the rapidity with which the EPA’s proposal requires could simply be too much for domestic power plants to adhere to.
Biden’s Environmental Protection Agency
Though the Environmental Protection Agency has been in place since the 1970s, it has grown excessively under the Obama and Biden administrations. During the Obama era, a similar plan was proposed through the EPA. However, the Supreme Court deemed this type of overarching authority unlawful. The Obama administration’s failed proposal was repealed in 2019 under the Trump administration. Now, the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposal has been revived under the Biden administration.
While the EPA suggests the new regulations could have invaluable environmental impacts, the economic effects could be catastrophic. If the Environmental Protection Agency’s plan goes through, the cost of producing power will most likely increase drastically. In that scenario, this plan would affect not only power plants but American citizens as well. If it costs more to produce electricity, power bills increase.
The EPA is set to open a 60-day comment period in which power plants and the public can offer their opinions. During this time, the EPA expects blowback from power companies and concerned citizens.
Is Biden’s Proposed Regulation an Attack on Affordable Energy?
The proposed bill would most likely increase the cost of energy production across the board. Currently, power plants utilize a mix of resources to provide the energy and electricity American citizens need. By using fossil fuels, like coal and oil, power companies can provide efficient electricity with relatively low production costs. Because the coal and oil industries can produce massive amounts of resources at lower prices, consumers reap the benefits of cost-effective production.
If the EPA’s plan is accepted, it would vastly change the face of power production in the United States. Though renewable energy technology is advancing and is an excellent possibility for the future, it is currently much more costly than fossil fuels. Until renewable energy technology becomes more affordable, America’s reliance on fossil fuels is an economic necessity. Unfortunately, the production cost of electricity could skyrocket if Biden’s proposal is successful.
Who Really Pays for “Clean Energy”?
If power plants are forced to install billions of dollars worth of equipment or move to less economical fuel sources, like hydrogen, American taxpayers will likely pay the price. If power production costs are dramatically increased for power plants, the extra expense will trickle down to the American citizens.
While the initial expense could be catastrophic on its own for power plants, the additional operational costs would continue to rise. The advancing technology proposed by the EPA would require sufficient maintenance, advanced updates, and highly specialized installation. The operational expertise necessary to implement such technology would be a costly endeavor for America’s power plans.
The alternative proposed option for power plants is to switch to hydrogen fuel, which has a lower CO2 emission. However, the transportation and handling of hydrogen fuel is a costly business. This alternative option could also drive up the cost of electricity across the nation. If the cost of production for electricity goes up for power plants, the consumers could end up picking up the expensive tab.
Why We Need Power Plant Operations
Power plants across the nation generate electricity that Americans use every day to power their computers, lights, climate control systems, etc. Electricity is a vital component in every sector of the American economy. We rely on electricity to heat our homes, power our phones, and sustain medical equipment; there are countless reasons why power grids are listed as critical infrastructure.
The proposed plan by the Biden administration’s EPA would cause power plants to install billions of dollars worth of equipment or face shutdowns. The limits proposed by the EPA are complicated and costly for power plants. Power plants would be required to utilize and install carbon dioxide-catching technologies to capture CO2 emissions before they reach the atmosphere. However, this equipment is costly and may take many years to fully deploy.
Another route power plants could take is making the switch to lower-emission hydrogen fuel. A move to hydrogen fuel would mean less dependence on fossil fuels like coal and natural gas. However, hydrogen fuel and hydrogen fuel technology are costly and can come with certain risks. Hydrogen can be considered volatile fuel. Without proper equipment and adequate safety measures, switching to hydrogen fuel could cause difficulties for power plants.
If America’s power plants are unable to meet the proposed regulations, they could face total shutdowns. Environmental groups approve of this course of action, but the ramifications could destabilize America’s power grid. With the potential power problem states like California and Texas have already seen, a destabilization of the nation’s power grid could be disastrous on a much larger scale. America needs its power plants to run efficiently and continuously to provide for the needs of its citizens.
America’s Dependence on Coal
The proposed plan seems to be a direct attack on the coal industry. While some environmental groups have been praising the proposed EPA regulation, the dependence on coal is vital to the energy sector—and the energy transition. Not only does coal provide thousands of jobs for states like West Virginia or Kentucky, but coal is responsible for a massive portion of the electricity used in the nation.
According to the United States Energy Information Administration, coal produced 828 billion kWh of electricity in 2022. This accounts for roughly 19.5% of the energy generated for the nation by fossil fuels. The current energy produced by fossil fuels in the United States accounts for around 60% of the power grid. Coal production and energy from coal provide a massive portion of the energy we need to sustain our power.
Crippling America’s coal industry could result in a catastrophic energy crisis. If the proposed regulations are carried through, power plants across the nation would have to dramatically decrease their dependence on coal as an energy source. The impact on the power grid could be disastrous, on top of the economic ramifications and thousands of jobs destroyed for the coal industry.
While the world is transitioning to clean energy, the rapid elimination of America’s dependence on coal is not a viable option. America still relies on coal production, and severely diminishing or eliminating coal production can only be done over a period of time. At best, Biden’s proposal is downright aggressive. At worst, it could destabilize the energy grid and cause disastrous ramifications for the American economy.
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