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Sean Hackbarth EPA Headquarters in Washington, DC.EPA Headquarters in Washington, DC.Photographer: Coolcaesar/Wikimedia Commons. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0. license.

A circus atmosphere surrounds the locations of EPA's two days of public hearings on its proposed carbon regulations. For example, campaign-style rallies are being held in Atlanta—where the hearings were moved due to power outage, and Ben & Jerry’s is dishing out free ice cream in Washington, DC.

Let me remind you that of the locations where EPA is holding public hearings, none will take place in any of the ten states most reliant on coal for electricity. For EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, this is what she considers to be part of her agency's “unprecedented outreach.”

There may be a carefree atmosphere outside, but it’s serious inside the hearings where over the next two days 1,600 people will testify on EPA’s costly regulations that will reshape America’s power system. One of those was Mary Martin, energy, clean air, and natural resources policy counsel for the U.S. Chamber. She delivered three potent arguments against the proposed regulations.

1. EPA failed to study how the proposed regulations will affect small businesses.

EPA has taken a “very myopic view” and avoided how the proposed regulations will affect small businesses, Martin explained:

As EPA itself admits, electricity prices — which are one of the largest concerns of small businesses — will go up as a result of this proposal. In fact, energy costs are one of the top three business expenses for 35% of small businesses.

Yet, EPA hasn’t convened a Small Business Advocacy Review as it’s obligated to do under the Regulatory Flexibility Act. The review would look at how electricity price increases as well as possible compliance burdens imposed by state and regional plans would affect small businesses.

2. EPA is rushing the proposed regulations.

Because of the vast scope and complexity of the proposed regulations, more time is needed to analyze them, Martin argued:

Based solely upon the magnitude and breadth of this proposed regulation, the comment period should be extended by at least 60 days to give the various stakeholders more time to understand and analyze the potential impacts of the proposal. Additionally, there should be more time in the process for the states to understand the complexities of an extremely technical rule that goes beyond traditional environmental regulation and delves into the world of energy generation and distribution.

3. There are major problems with EPA’s cost-benefit analysis.

While the proposed regulations are about reducing greenhouse gas emissions, much of the benefits come from reductions in other emissions, Martin stated:

The EPA continues to justify a regulation with benefits that are derived not from the pollutant that the EPA cites as the justification for promulgating the regulation (carbon dioxide), but from pollutants incidentally reduced by the primary regulatory requirements (ozone and particulate matter). For example, under the state compliance approach, the EPA estimates that “the climate benefits in 2020 are expected to be approximately $18 billion ...“ while the “[h]ealth co-benefits are estimated to be $17 to $40 billion.”

She also noted that the carbon benefits are based in part on a “social cost of carbon” estimate that lacks transparency and hasn’t gone through the rulemaking process.

This isn’t the only instance of EPA puffing up the potential benefits from its proposed carbon regulations. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy has stated that by 2030, the proposed regulations will deliver $30 billion in climate benefits. What she didn’t say, and what was noted by scholars from the Brookings Institution, is that most of those benefits will be global benefits. “Only 7 to 23 percent of these benefits would be domestic benefits,” write Ted Gayer and Kip Viscusi.

There are problems on the cost side of the equation as well. Martin points out that EPA hasn’t analyzed the proposed regulations’ effects on jobs:

Finally, the EPA persists in its failure to consider in any significant way the employment impacts of Clean Air Act regulations like this one. The Agency did not use a whole-economy modeling approach here, which would have captured a much more accurate picture of the likely job losses from this proposal. The EPA also continues to avoid undertaking an employment analysis under Section 321(a) of the Clean Air Act, which requires the continuous review of potential job losses and shifts in employment due to the implementation of the Act.

Let’s sum this up:

EPA hasn’t examined possible effects of its proposed carbon regulations on small businesses, as it’s obligated by federal law, Despite its scope and complexity, EPA is rushing them through the process; EPA’s cost-benefit analysis is questionable at best.

That’s all that could fit into five minutes, but this only scratches the surface on why this proposed regulation is bad policy. There’s more to come.

Follow Sean Hackbarth on Twitter at @seanhackbarth and the U.S. Chamber at @uschamber.

Sean Hackbarth Power outage.Photographer: fun3MD/Flickr. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

This is not a story from The Onion.

EPA is moving its Atlanta public hearings on proposed carbon regulations next week because of a power outage.

An email from an EPA staffer explained the situation [emphasis hers]:

Please be aware that as the result of a large scale power outage at the Sam Nunn Atlanta Federal Center, EPA will hold the July 29 and 30, 2014, Atlanta Clean Power Plan public hearings at the Omni Hotel. While repairs are underway at the Federal Center, there is no guarantee the facility will be fully operational in time for the hearings. This led to the agency’s decision to change locations.

 The hearing dates and times have not changed.

According to local news reports, an internal power outage has kept the building closed all week.

Ironically, the carbon regulations that will be discussed at the hearing will make the electrical grid less reliable and more vulnerable to price spikes.

“This significant power outage is either cruel irony or a glimpse of a coming cruel reality if the Obama Administration and the EPA are successful in their quest to end the use of affordable, reliable coal,” said Laura Sheehan, senior vice president for communications at the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity.

Let me also remind you that EPA hasn’t scheduled any hearings on the proposed carbon regulations any of the ten states most reliant on coal for electricity, such as Wyoming, West Virginia, or Missouri--where the lights are presumably still on.

Sean Hackbarth Electrical linesPhotographer: Kevin Dooley/Flickr. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

Both my grandmother and my financial adviser told me, “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.” This aphorism helps me manage life’s inherent risk and uncertainty. Unfortunately, Washington policymakers aren’t heeding this advice when it comes to energy policy.

EPA’s proposed carbon regulations would make coal an energy “loser” and drive it out of America’s fuel mix. This would make electricity production more reliant on natural gas for baseload power and more reliant on wind and solar for intermittent power.

What would a reduction in power supply diversity mean for electricity costs and our economy? The U.S. Chamber’s Institute for 21st Century Energy, the Edison Electric Institute, and the Nuclear Energy Institute asked research firm IHS to study this question. After looking at data from 2010-2012, the report found that, compared to a less diverse case with no meaningful contributions from coal and nuclear, our current mix of energy sources has lowered electricity generating costs by $93 billion per year while also reducing price volatility. With less diversity wholesale electricity prices would have been 75% higher and retail prices would have been 25% higher.

Since many industries buy electricity on the wholesale market, higher prices would mean fewer resources available to invest and hire workers. IHS estimates that the economic pain from less energy diversity would be over one million jobs lost and annual household disposable income reduced by around $2,100.

“The federal push to eliminate coal and favor some technologies over others could turn a major strength of our nation—a diverse supply of electricity resources—into a big vulnerability,” said Karen Harbert, president and CEO of the Energy Institute

IHS explains why energy diversity is best for electricity consumers:

Engineering and economic analyses consistently show that an integration of different fuels and technologies produces the least-cost power production mix. Power production costs change because the input fuel costs—including for natural gas, oil, coal, and uranium—change over time. The inherent uncertainty around the future prices of these fuels translates into uncertainty regarding the cost to produce electricity, known as production cost risk. A diversified portfolio is the most cost-effective tool available to manage the inherent production cost risk involved in transforming primary energy fuels into electricity. In addition, a diverse power generation technology mix is essential to cost-effectively integrate intermittent renewable power resources into the power supply mix.

We’ve lived so long with a diverse energy portfolio that we take it for granted. This past winter during the polar vortex, many Americans benefited from our diverse energy mix as Heath Knakmuhs, senior director of policy at the U.S. Chamber’s Energy Institute explains:

The colder temperatures in some parts of the country stretched natural gas demand, and utilities turned to coal to provide power. While increasing natural gas production is a very good thing for our economy and our security, it should not be at the expense of other sources.

If EPA’s greenhouse gas policies were already in effect, many Americans would have been shivering, sitting in the dark, or both. Energy policies that drive abundant fuels like coal out of the market will result in higher electricity costs, jobs lost, and families hurt.

Follow Sean Hackbarth on Twitter at @seanhackbarth and the U.S. Chamber at @uschamber.

Christopher Guith Nuclear Energy: Creating Jobs and Emissions-Free Electricity in GA and the Nation Video of Nuclear Energy: Creating Jobs and Emissions-Free Electricity in GA and the Nation

With temperatures rising, did you know that there's an emissions-free, affordable power source that will keep you cool?

Nuclear energy is one of our most reliable sources of energy. Unlike some other emissions-free sources of energy, it can operate whether the wind is blowing or the sun is shining: 24/7, 365. In fact, nuclear provides 20% of the electricity used by Americans every day.

While progress on nuclear energy has slowed, there are finally some new plants under construction that will help meet our nation's growing energy needs. Recently Christopher Guith, Senior Vice President for Policy at the Institute for 21st Century Energy, visited the Vogtle Electric Generating Plant in Waynesboro Georgia, where construction of two new nuclear reactors is underway.

Once completed, the two reactors will power over 2 million homes with 100% emissions-free electricity, while bringing high-paying jobs to the region. It's a win for the Waynesboro community and energy consumers across the country. 

Watch this Energy Institute video to see firsthand why nuclear matters to the U.S. – then share the video with others to help spread the word.

Sean Hackbarth Pizza jointPhotographer: David, Bergin, Emmett and Elliott/Flickr. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

Want to make 50 grand delivering pizzas? Kathy Hoekstra at the Job Creators Network blog found a job listing in North Dakota:

Total Yearly Income: $56,400

Benefits Include:

- One week paid vacation every 6 months after your first six months.

- During your week of paid vacation you also receive a $1000 bonus.

-We will match up to $100/month in an employee savings account.

- If you like we also offer a Personal Financial Assistant to pay bills, do taxes and help manage your money.

In addition, there is no requirement for a college degree or any special certification - just a clean driving record, no criminal history and a reliable vehicle.

This is an example of the intense demand for workers there. As Hoekstra writes, shale oil development is the instigator for this:

Thanks to the shale oil extraction and a welcoming business environment, the state has increased its oil output tenfold over the past eight years, capped so far by records of more than one million barrels of oil per day for two straight months. Some 12 percent of US oil comes from North Dakota.

As a result, North Dakota boasts the nation’s lowest unemployment rate (2.6 percent in May.) The oil jobs are lucrative enough, commanding average salaries of about $100,000, “often with little-to-no experience or need for a college degree.”

North Dakota isn’t an anomaly. The Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) data show that energy development is driving above-average economic growth in states such as Wyoming, West Virginia, Oklahoma, and Colorado.

With smart federal policies, we can expect this to continue. A U.S. Chamber Institute for 21st Century Energy study found that shale oil and natural gas development could support 3.9 million jobs by 2025.

While we shouldn't expect pizza drivers to make $50K everywhere, we do know the job-creating potential of developing America’s energy abundance.

[H/t Mark Perry]

Follow Sean Hackbarth on Twitter at @seanhackbarth and the U.S. Chamber at @uschamber.