Wall Street Journal's Baloney on EPA and Carbon

They say passing legislation is like making sausage.  Well, at the Wall Street Journal, writing editorials is like making baloney. 

On Monday the Journal unsurprisingly put its megaphone behind Sen. Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) amendment to block EPA from curbing dangerous carbon pollution.  McConnell’s amendment, which may come up for a Senate vote today, is nothing but a nasty favor to the nation’s biggest polluters.  But the Journal hails it as a wonder tonic for the ailing U.S. economy.  “Few votes could do more to help the private economy,” they say, than to block EPA.  This, they declare, is “one of the best proposals for growth and job creation to make it onto the Senate docket in years.”

That’s just baloney.   

The Journal gets the economics of environmental regulation completely backwards. “Eventually,” the editors declare, “the EPA plan will appreciably lower the U.S. standard of living.”  Nonsense.  Rather than hurting economic growth, four decades of data show the Clean Air Act does the opposite.

Over the past 40 years, the economy has tripled in size while we’ve cut some forms of pollution by more than 60 percent.  That’s because the Clean Air Act does not demand the impossible – it requires only pollution controls that are achievable and affordable.  That’s just as true when setting carbon pollution standards as it has been for other kinds of pollution. 

Hey, many carbon pollution standards can actually save money by saving energy.  Take, for example, the clean car standards EPA set last year, which will lower American families’ gasoline bills by billions of dollars.  They’ll save car owners $3,000 over the vehicle’s life and cut America’s oil demand by 1.8 billion barrels.  (Those savings were calculated when gas cost only $2.61/gallon, so they’ll be even larger at today’s prices.)  McConnell’s amendment would knock EPA out of the business of setting the next generation of clean car standards, raising your gasoline bills and raising America’s oil dependence.  That’s more money for big oil companies and OPEC, and less for you and me.

Health and environmental standards help the economy by making America a leading inventor and exporter of environmental protection goods and services.  According to the Department of Commerce, that industry generated revenues of some $300 billion per year in 2008 and directly supported nearly 1.7 million jobs.  Between 1990 and 2008, exports grew from less than $10 billion to $43.8 billion, and the U.S. share of foreign environmental technology markets has been increasing.  And the environmental protection industry is a net job creator, creating more jobs per dollar invested than the average for investment elsewhere in the economy.

The WSJ editors claim “EPA is trying to drive coal-fired power out of existence.”  Nonsense.  Even in the coal industry’s scariest and most exaggerated scenarios, coal remains the dominant power plant fuel for decades.  The editors claim the “core electricity generation that the country needs to meet future demand is not being built, and it won't be until the EPA is bridled.”  Nonsense.  The power industry is meeting demand just fine, mostly by building gas-fired plants instead of coal – a decision driven strictly on economics – and, as I explained in this letter to the Journal, EPA is assuring that those plants can get the clean air permits they need in every state. 

The hype goes on:  “The Clean Air Act, once the carbon doomsday machine has been activated, won't merely apply to ‘major’ sources of emissions like power plants or factories. Its reach will include schools, farms, hospitals, restaurants, basically any large building.”  Nonsense.  Though it drives the Journal editors nuts, EPA’s “tailoring” rule has exempted all the small stuff.  It’s the big polluters that are challenging those exemptions, but as I show here, they can’t show how they’re harmed.  Turns out, it’s hard to hide an oil refinery behind a donut shop.

The WSJ editors claim this is a “moment of truth” for the Senate.  That’s right.  Senators should stand up and tell the Journal and the big polluters they’re not buying the baloney.

                                                                Thanks to Laurie Johnson for help on this post.