NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Opinion

June 14, 2014

Column: Left tallies ‘true cost’ of coal with a political calculator

Why shouldn’t Americans — in their homes and businesses — have to pay the “true cost” of energy from its various sources?

That is one of the more compelling arguments coming from those who applaud the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s 645-page orgy of regulations issued earlier this month. The regs, they cheer, finally will force operators of coal-burning power plants to build into their rate structure the cost of belching greenhouse gases and other pollutants into the air.

Yes, that would cause the price of coal to rise. It would, thus, make clean energy alternatives — wind, solar, hydro — more competitive, moving us into a healthier future that would lower the risk of climate change. (I guess the newer politically correct euphemism is “climate disruption.”)

Well, maybe. All sorts of promises are being thrown about, as there are every time President Obama launches yet another initiative to grow the size and power of government.

It will cut carbon dioxide emissions from U.S. electricity generation by 30 percent by 2030 from 2005 levels! It will cut the number of childhood asthma attacks by 140,000! It will prevent at least 2,700 premature deaths! It will cut the number of work and school days lost to illness by nearly 500,000! And all of those benefits will save the American economy $25 billion to $62 billion annually — $7 in health benefits for every $1 invested!

But those benefits, even if they equal the promises, are a bit more modest given some context. The projected reduction in asthma attacks amounts to about 3.2 percent. The projected reduction in carbon dioxide emissions won’t even equal the worldwide increase in emissions from coal each year.

And, actually, nobody really knows for sure. A prediction about almost anything even five years out is a guess. Predictions 16 years out are little more than propaganda, no matter what side of the debate you’re on.

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