At a White House press briefing Tuesday, press secretary Sean Spicer was asked about the future of former President Obama’s signature climate-change action, the Clean Power Plan. Spicer responded that the Trump administration is looking at “all of the options” when it comes to energy policy, including “clean coal.” House Republicans announced a similar agenda earlier in the day, pushing a resolution under the Congressional Review Act to cancel Obama’s last-minute “Stream Rule.”
These are serious moves to roll back onerous regulations — the same rules that would have continued under a Hillary Clinton administration, and would have had major repercussions for America’s working families.
It may seem unfathomable to elected officials in Washington, or to the comfortable elite of New York and California, but $10 represents a sizable amount of money to many Americans.
The Clean Power Plan is currently under review by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. In part, that’s because an estimated 45 states would see home energy costs rise by at least 10 percent under the plan. And 16 states would see utility bills rise by 25 percent or more.
It’s noteworthy, though, that states depending heavily on coal-fired power have already made massive investments in technologies to scrub and trap particulate and gas emissions. But what’s at issue now is carbon dioxide. And so, a family in Missouri, for example, paying $175 per month for home heating would face a roughly $45 monthly increase in utility bills if Obama’s plan is allowed to continue.
The Environmental Protection Agency believes that the projected mass-transformation of America’s entire power grid would be less costly, however. They cite an optimistic assessment from the Energy Information Administration (EIA) that households would see only a 3 percent to 7 percent uptick in energy bills — a roughly $10 monthly increase in home utility costs.
Even if such rosy predictions proved accurate, however, there’s still a human element to consider. It may seem unfathomable to elected officials in Washington, or to the comfortable elite of New York and California, but $10 represents a sizable amount of money to many Americans. In fact, it’s very possible that millions of Americans can’t afford to pay an additional $10 per month for electricity right now.
Approximately 40 percent of U.S. households spend 17 cents of every after-tax dollar on energy-related expenses. This shouldn’t be surprising, given the vast increase in service sector employment over the past decade. Simply put, millions of Americans are currently trudging through hourly work in shopping malls and restaurants, and they are hard-pressed to buy food and medicine, let alone pay more for their electricity. Even the EIA subtly notes this stark reality when it admits that “higher prices” would “decrease electricity usage” — a tacit acknowledgement that Americans would have to lower their thermostats and switch off lights in order to afford the Clean Power Plan.
With one study suggesting that the plan could actually drive up annual household electricity bills by an average of $680, it’s not hard to foresee the serious damage that “decarbonization” policies could wreak.
Much of the country is currently consumed with post-election squabbling. But the real focus should be on those who literally can’t pay an extra $10 a month for electricity. This is what should animate the media — and Washington — right now. And it’s why Congress and the president are right to overturn questionable regulations that will impose such hardships on America’s struggling middle class.
The author of this piece served as a media director for various organizations.