God is certainly no respecter of man (Acts 10:34–35; Rom 2:9–11; Eph 6:8–9, etc.); He shows no favoritism, and neither does His son, Jesus Christ (Matt 22:16). But God does care for the weak, poor, timid, and defenseless — He is a compassionate God, and He expects the same of us (Deut 10:18).
In America, as with the rest of the planet, coal plays a crucial role in energy production, yet it is under attack in America. The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Mercury MACT (Maximum Achievable Control Technology) rule is expected by many to cost up to $200 billion in annual compliance, with no new observable benefits. Similarly damaging legislation, the Cross State Air Pollution Rule, was stalled in Texas by courts saying the EPA had massively overstepped its bounds.
Now, a bi-partisan effort is Congress is working to set some things straight. Comprised of three separate bills to be voted on this week in the House of Representatives, the “Stop the War on Coal Act” hopes to stifle the EPA’s more aggressive regulations.
The three bills are: the Energy Tax Prevention Act, which prevents the Clean Air Act from being used to regulate total emissions, a step beyond its original intent; the Transparency in Regulatory Analysis of Impacts to the Nation (TRAIN) Act, which creates an oversight committee to evaluate economic impacts of regulations; and the Coal Residuals Reuse and Management Act, which allows for more localized, state-based regulation of the disposal of coal ash.
The three bills work to limit government, localize regulation, and keep regulation in touch with market demands — all admirable traits. But most importantly, they will protect poor and working families from drastically escalating electricity prices.
The Government Accountability Office reported last month that the EPA’s new regulations for mercury and greenhouse gas emissions will inevitably force 12 percent of coal-fired plants in America to shut down. This is devastating for American families, especially the poorer among us, as electricity rates are expected to rise by as much as 13 percent in some states.
Lower income families, defined as the lowest fifth of wage earners, spend 19 percent of their monthly wages on energy, including electricity, fuel, heating, and cooling. Middle income earners, on the other hand, spend only 8 or 9 percent. Highest income earners spend far less by percentage of monthly wage earnings. An increase in the cost of energy adversely affects the poor.
England has seen energy prices rise more than 70 percent in only a few years, and prices are predicted to continue rising. The rise in price is a consequence of the increased proportion of energy mandated from wind turbines. The result is a loss of purchasing power and standard of living of lower income families, and accordingly an inability to save. If nothing else the apparent wage gap will increase.
Energy is absolutely necessary to a healthy standard of living, yet the EPA and the Obama administration’s attempts to disband coal have hurt our economy. President Obama said in 2008, “If someone wants to build a coal-powered plant, they can, it’s just that it will bankrupt them because they are going to be charged a huge sum.” Is that America’s energy future, government choosing winners and losers?
This will not only hurt the poor in this country, but those in other countries that are dependent on affordable American exports, such as food, clothes and medicine. Regulations are supposed to protect health, not exacerbate poverty or limit resources. It is not right to protect the perceived health of this country’s wealthy at the expense of the poor’s real health, both domestic and abroad.
Just weeks after two major blackouts in India which were caused by environmental regulations limiting coal — cutting power for hundreds of millions for days and causing many death — our elected leaders would put us in a similarly vulnerable position.
Energy means economy; energy means life. We must ensure the continued availability of affordable and reliable energy, especially for those the Bible describes as “the least among us.”
Douglas Gregory is Research and Communications Specialist for the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation. He has a B.S. in Microbiology from the Pennsylvania State University.
Publication date: September 19, 2012