The Edmond Sun


June 11, 2014

Obama and the EPA: It’s about rewarding friends, punishing enemies

LOS ANGELES — The Environmental Protection Agency published its Clean Power Plan Proposed Rule last week. By how much would the rule reduce future temperatures? If we apply the climate model developed at the National Center for Atmospheric Research — used by both the United Nations and the EPA — the new rule, even if implemented immediately, would reduce global temperatures in 2050 by less than a hundredth of a degree, and less than two-hundredths of a degree by 2100. Those trivial temperature effects are much smaller than the annual variability (11-hundredths of a degree) of the surface temperature record. They could not be measured reliably.

The supporters of the rule argue that it is just a part of a larger effort to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions by an amount sufficient to limit temperature increases to 2 degrees. But under the assumptions of the plan’s supporters, that would require a global emissions reduction of almost 80 percent, a goal impossible both economically and politically.

In brief, the rule would mandate an aggregate reduction of 30 percent in power plant emissions below 2005 levels by 2030, with specific reduction requirements imposed on each state. It allows “flexibility” for the states in how they lower emissions (through efficiency standards, cap-and-trade programs, etc.), ostensibly to reduce the costs of meeting the requirements. But it is obvious that a major purpose of the flexibility is to obscure the ways in which implementation will proceed, and thus to hide the true cost of the emission reductions. Those costs are certain to be large; that is why the proposed rule is so contentious. One recent estimate from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is that the rule will cost more than $50 billion a year in reduced gross domestic product.

More interesting is the wide difference in cost effects across the states. As coal-fired electricity is more emissions-intensive than other types of power generation, the rule will increase power costs more in states especially dependent on coal-fired power, and impose higher economic costs in states in which the coal industry is a bigger part of the economy.

It is no accident that the states that will bear the brunt of the costs are red politically. Thus, the effect of the rule will be to increase energy costs in red states relative to those in blue states.

A recent MIT study concludes that under a policy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, “California, the Pacific Coast, New England and New York generally experience the lowest cost ... while (Arkansas, Louisiana, and Oklahoma), Texas and Mountain states face the highest.” With the exception of Oregon and Washington state, which have access to large amounts of cheap hydroelectric power, electricity prices are about $150 per megawatt-hour in the former states, and only about $80 in the latter group.

The Obama “carbon” policy promises to raise costs in the latter states disproportionately, because they will have to reduce emissions by far more, thus reducing their advantages in terms of economic competition.

The combination of large costs and zero climate benefits explains why the president argued in a recent radio address that the new rule would prevent “up to 100,000 asthma attacks and 2,100 heart attacks” in the first year, rising thereafter, presumably because of ancillary reductions in such other effluents as particulates, mercury and nitrogen oxides. Carbon dioxide does not cause adverse health effects even at concentrations many times higher than those current or projected.

But those pollutants already are regulated under other sections of the Clean Air Act, and the legal requirement is that those regulations “protect the public health” with an “adequate margin of safety,” without consideration of costs. Is it the position of the Obama administration that those regulations do not satisfy the requirements of the law? Or is the EPA double-counting the health benefits from other regulations already in force? Or is the EPA assuming further health benefits from reducing pollution levels that already are lower than those at which the epidemiological analyses suggest no adverse effects?

No one knows, because the EPA analytic methodology to a substantial degree is obscure and the EPA’s answers to analysts’ questions often are unclear.

Given the minuscule effect of this policy on global temperatures under the standard climate models, it is clear that the administration’s touting of other health benefits is a political maneuver. As used by proponents of the plan, the terms “carbon” and “carbon pollution” are little more than propaganda. “Carbon” is not carbon dioxide, a natural substance not toxic to humans at many times current ambient concentrations; and to define carbon dioxide as “pollution” is an attempt simply to assume the answer to the central policy question.

The real pollution attendant upon this proposed regulation is that of our political institutions. A Congress unwilling to enact such rules, or a carbon tax, has been shunted aside by raw administrative fiat in pursuit of rewards for friends and punishment for enemies. Will future administrations allow themselves to be constrained by the separation of powers? It is difficult to see why they would.

BENJAMIN ZYCHER is a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, 1150 17th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20036; website: He wrote this for the Los Angeles Times.

Text Only
  • Sheltons travel for better life for family

    Some time around 1865 a mixed-race African American couple, William and Mary Shelton, made their way from Mississippi to east Texas. Nothing is known for certain of their origins in he Magnolia state, or the circumstances under which they began their new lives in Texas.

    July 29, 2014

  • Film critic Turan produces book

    Kenneth Turan, who is the film critic for National Public Radio’s “Morning Edition,” has written a book “Not to be Missed, Fifty-Four Favorites from a Life Time of Film.” His list of movies span the gamut from the beginnings of filmmaking through the present day.
    There are some surprising omissions on his list. While he includes two films, “A Touch of Evil” and Chimes at Midnight” made by Orson Welles, and one, “The Third Man,” that Welles starred in but did not direct. He did not however, include “Citizen Kane,” that was the first movie Welles made, that is  often cited by both film critics and historians as a favorite film.

    July 28, 2014

  • Logan County’s disputed zone

    Watchers of “Star Trek” may recall the episode from the original series entitled, “Day of the Dove.” In this episode, Captain Kirk and his crew are forced by a series of circumstances into a confrontation with the Klingons. The conflict eventually resolves after Kirk realizes that the circumstances have been intentionally designed by an alien force which feeds off negative emotions, especially fear and anger. Kirk and his crew communicate this fact to the Klingons and the conflict subsides. No longer feeding upon confrontation, the alien force is weakened and successfully driven away.

    July 28, 2014

  • Russell leads in Sun poll

    Polling results of an unscientific poll at show that Steve Russell, GOP candidate for the 5th District congressional seat, is in the lead with 57 percent of the vote ahead of the Aug. 26 runoff election. Thirty readers participated in the online poll.

    July 28, 2014

  • Healthier and Wealthier? Not in Oklahoma

    Increased copays, decreased coverage, diminished health care access, reduced provider budgets and increased frustration are all the outcomes of the Legislature’s 2014 health care funding decisions. Unlike some years in the past when a languishing state economy forced legislators into making cuts, the undesirable outcomes this year could easily have been avoided.

    July 26, 2014

  • Medicaid reform a necessity

    Historically, education spending by the state of Oklahoma has been the largest budget item. This is no longer the case. In recent years, the state of Oklahoma spends more on Medicaid (operated by the Oklahoma Health Care Authority) than common education and higher education combined, according to the state’s Comprehensive Annual Financial Report.

    July 25, 2014

  • Remembering lessons from 1974

    This week marks the 40th anniversary of an important milestone in America’s constitutional history. On July 24, 1974, the Supreme Court voted 8-0 to order the Nixon White House to turn over audiotapes that would prove the president and his close aides were guilty of criminal violations. This ruling established with crystal clarity that the executive branch could not hide behind the shield of executive privilege to protect itself from the consequences of illegal behavior. It was a triumph for the continued vitality of our constitutional form of government.

    July 25, 2014

  • RedBlueAmerica: Is parenting being criminalized in America?

    Debra Harrell was arrested recently after the McDonald’s employee let her daughter spend the day playing in a nearby park while she worked her shift. The South Carolina woman says her daughter had a cell phone in case of danger, and critics say that children once were given the independence to spend a few unsupervised hours in a park.
    Is it a crime to parent “free-range” kids? Does Harrell deserve her problems? Joel Mathis and Ben Boychuk, the RedBlueAmerica columnists, debate the issue.

    July 24, 2014

  • Technology that will stimulate journalism’s future is now here

    To say technology has changed the newspaper media industry is understating the obvious. While much discussion focuses on how we read the news, technology is changing the way we report the news. The image of a reporter showing up to a scene with a pen and a pad is iconic but lost to the vestiges of time.
    I am asked frequently about the future of newspapers and, in particular, what does a successful future look like. For journalists, to be successful is to command multiple technologies and share news with readers in new and exciting ways.

    July 23, 2014

  • New Orleans features its own “Running of the Bulls”

    On July12, the streets of the Warehouse District of New Orleans were filled with thousands of young men who were seeking to avoid being hit with plastic bats wielded by women on roller skates as part of the annual “Running of the Bulls” that takes place in New Orleans.
    The event is based on the “Running of the Bulls” that occurs in Pamplona, Spain, that is  part of an annual occurrence in which a group of bulls rampage through the streets of Pamplona while men run from them to avoid being gored by their sharp horns. That event was introduced to the English-speaking world by Ernest Hemingway, who included scenes from it in his critically acclaimed 1926 novel “The Sun also Rises.”

    July 22, 2014


The runoff race for the 5th District congressional seat is set for Aug. 26. If the voting were today, which candidate would you support?

Al McAffrey
Tom Guild
     View Results