Clean Air amendment a
The Senate Environment and Public Works
committee recently approved an amendment to the Clean Air Act by a 10-9
characteristically thin margin for such
sweeping, extreme legislation.
The Clean Power Act, authored and sponsored
by the committee chairman James Jeffords, Independent from Vermont, would
impose the nation's first controls on
carbon dioxide, to the tune of 25 percent of current levels. These carbon
dioxide controls are the
centerpiece of the bill. The bill would
also curb three other pollutants: sulfur dioxide by 95 percent, which causes
acid rain, nitrous
oxides by 85 percent, and mercury by 90
percent. These cuts would have to be made by 2008.
Max Baucus of Montana, a powerful Democratic
dissenting vote, rebuked Jeffords for lack of compromise and predicts that
of implementing these controls will be
so high as to put many coal fired power plants out of commission.
The mercury controls, for example, are
so high as to be impossible. Jefford's plan would cut mercury emissions
from 41 tons per
year to just five, and there would be
no trading of emission permits to mitigate fluctuations in demand for the
right to emit. The
electricity industry says that current
technology can decrease mercury by about 40 percent, but not to the levels
required by this bill.
Coal constitutes fully half of the country's
electricity, primarily because it is our cheapest energy source and its
emissions have gotten
progressively cleaner during the past
hundred years. The Edison Electricity Institute points out that existing
control programs for
sulfur dioxide and nitrous oxide emissions
"will reduce tons of both emissions by half from their highest levels."
If a bill such as Jefford's damages such
a large and crucial
portion of our energy producing capacity,
then more expensive means of energy will need to fill the void, such as
California relies mostly on natural gas
for electricity, and that dependency is what helped create the California
energy crisis. They did
not allow coal to provide a buffer from
the volatility of the natural gas market, and this volatility hammered
California. The shock our
electrical system would sustain attempting
to change half of energy capacity to a different source of fuel would only
volatility of gas prices and drive them
up even further.
As is the case of most environmental regulation,
the poor would suffer the most under this bill. The well off will be less
price increases, while seniors receiving
social security will experience even more pressure on their already small,
Jefford's plan has all the trappings of
the Kyoto protocol: prohibitively large cost and GDP contraction, with
little real result on the
concentration of carbon dioxide in the
atmosphere. A quarter of the nation's emissions of carbon dioxide from
power plants are a
small fraction of the total global emissions
of the compound.
Cutting this amount will not delay a rise
in global temperature, due to the sheer amount that the rest of America
and the world emit.
The developing world, namely China and
India, have refused to partake in any such emission reduction scheme. While
industry struggles under the yoke of such
oppressive regulation, China and India will continue to increase their
current U.S. levels, making the reductions
in the bill even more ineffective.
It is easy for Jeffords to sit atop his
high platitudes and dictate how the rest of the busy nation should fuel
itself. Fortunately, the stark
nature of Jefford's legislation is perhaps
its best quality, for the tight caps and cost thereof are so unreasonable
that this measure is
sure not to garner any support from Senators
whose states actually have work to do.