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Laurie Johnson’s Blog

Heritage Foundation claims unfounded: power plant carbon standards good for jobs and the economy, not bad

Laurie Johnson

Posted March 5, 2014

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Yesterday, the Heritage Foundation industry front-group published a broadside attacking the Environmental Protection Agency’s efforts to limit dangerous carbon dioxide pollution from the electric power sector, responsible for approximately 40% of CO2 pollution in the U.S.  

The group claims that protective standards to limit the impacts of climate change would raise electricity prices, slash American manufacturing jobs, and shrink income for American families, especially the poor. Before critiquing these claims, let me first note that they come from an organization that takes money from fossil fuel interests and consistently opposes social programs for the poor. It is also the same organization that said we should count every $100 worth of future climate damages to our children as $11.

On to their report.

Here are the facts that matter, and undermine Heritage’s entire analysis:

1. Climate change disproportionately hurts minorities and the poor. So does pollution from fossil fuel extraction and combustion.

2. The cost of fossil-fuel based electricity, after accounting for all pollution damages, is much higher than cleaner energy whose costs, in contrast, have been rapidly declining.

3. Historically, there is no evidence that electricity prices increase as a result of clean air standards. In fact, they even went down over the 1990s (see Figure 1), after the sweeping 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments, while pollution dramatically fell and electricity generation increased. (The Clean Air Act is the law requiring EPA to adopt carbon pollution standards).

4. The Clean Air Act has delivered health and environmental benefits exceeding costs by a factor of 26 to 1.

5. Consistent with our historical experience, more credible analyses (click here, here, and here) find significant carbon pollution reductions from power plants are possible that don’t hurt electricity consumers and deliver benefits significantly higher than costs.

6. Tackling this problem creates clean jobs, and protects the ones we already have. Climate change is imposing significant costs on farmers and businesses, both small and large; accidents from fossil fuel extraction, such as the BP Gulf and Exxon Valdez oil spills, also lead to job losses.

These are the basics of the problem, and why reining in power plant carbon pollution is both a critical first step and feasible.  By denying climate change and its costs and promoting economic scare tactics against vulnerable populations, the Heritage Foundation isn’t doing anyone any favors. Other than the fossil fuel lobby, that is.

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Michael BerndtsonMar 5 2014 08:15 PM

Heritage has morphed into a troll. It is probably a waste of NRDC's time getting stirred up about any of its position papers.

Of course, they do feed the beast, which is the tea party republicans, with talking points and ultra conservative ideas. But since DeMint took over as president, Heritage has lost whatever reasonableness it might have had in the past.

Based on a quick skim, this is what Heritage's report says: "fancy pants book learning liberals want to shut down coal because they hate hard working American families. And coal keeps your TVs on and beer cold."

Environmental policy folks (maybe NRDC) have to stop getting suckered punched by conservatives on issues that may or may not impact poor and working class folks. It's not like Heritage really cares about anyone other than its founders and funders.

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