Energy Blog

Energy Blog

US Chamber of Commerce Blog

Sean Hackbarth CNBC Hosts The Republican Presidential Primary Debate At The University Of Colorado BoulderPhoto credit: RJ Sangosti/Pool via Bloomberg.

CNBC’s GOP presidential debate focused on economic and fiscal issues. Now, two hours isn’t a lot of time for 10 candidates to talk substantially about anything, and while there was discussion about taxes, entitlement reform, and even fantasy football, the moderators missed three issues that have a big effect on businesses, workers, and the economy:

Trade Infrastructure Energy

[Watch the debate video, or read the debate transcript.]


Earlier this month, Asia-Pacific nations concluded negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). This trade deal, covering 40% of the world’s economy, is a major opportunity for American companies. The U.S. Chamber’s John Murphy notes, “Over the last two decades, the region’s middle class grew by 2 billion people. That number is expected to rise by another 1.2 billion by 2020.”

Even though we’re all (including the U.S. Chamber) learning about the agreement’s details, it’s important to know candidates’ views on international trade and investment.

Do the candidates understand the extent and complexity of global supply chains and what they mean to American competitiveness? If elected, what will be their strategy in lowering tariff and non-tariff barriers to ensure American companies can compete and American consumers have access to a wider variety of goods and services? Infrastructure

A well-functioning economy needs good roads and bridges for the safe transport of people and goods. But our infrastructure is crumbling, costing businesses and families billions. The Highway Trust Fund will soon run out of money, and Congress will likely kick the can down the road and only pass a short-term measure. What long-term solution should be put in place to have the necessary funds to rebuild our aging roads and highways?


The moderators failed to start a discussion on how to support and nurture U.S. domestic energy production. Following the Great Recession, the shale boom has been an economic bright spot.

With domestic oil producers enduring a low-price market, how about lifting the 40-year-old oil export ban? In light of the Obama administration’s overregulation--offshore in Alaska and the Gulf of Mexico as well as onshore--what should be done to support domestic oil and natural gas production? And the biggest energy issue right now: How will they stop EPA from forcing the restructuring of America’s power system to pursue a questionable goal of reducing carbon emissions?

Trade, infrastructure, and energy: These three are basic concerns for businesses and workers. It’s unfortunate that none of these were given the in-depth discussion they deserve. Hopefully they’re covered in future debates.

Heath Knakmuhs Map of US with "Tricks and Treats from EPA Carbon Regulations"  Photo by U.S. Chamber of Commerce Graphics

This post originally appeared on U.S. Chamber 's Institute for 21st Century Energy.

In keeping with this season of ghosts and witchcraft, we are shedding some additional light on the menu of tricks and treats that are being handed out by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) through the carbon rules for existing electric power plants that the EPA finalized in August, and which just set off a firestorm of litigation this past Friday. Unlike most households’ plans for the upcoming Halloween festivities, it appears as if the EPA is rather stingy with the provision of “treats” to the states that might come knocking at its door. Instead, the EPA is much more likely to force states into higher electricity prices, diminished electric reliability, and reduced economic competitiveness. 

The haunting graphic above summarizes the chilling economic impact of the thousands of pages of regulatory text issued by the EPA to set forth and support its carbon regulations that seek to turn many of our nation’s electric power plants into industrial graveyards. While we have asserted that the EPA’s recently finalized carbon rules will make affordable electricity prices an apparition of the past, our new graphic clearly illustrates the wrath that EPA’s tricks will have upon businesses and consumers.  Quite simply, the EPA’s mandates should instill significant fright in the regulators, legislators, businesses, and residents of the states that are positioned to be eternally haunted by the EPA’s carbon regulations. 

Putting EPA’s mysterious projections aside, we referenced the Agency’s own state-specific fact sheets accompanying its carbon regulations to shine a full moon’s worth of light upon which states get the equivalent of a full size candy bar, and which states get the lame candy nobody wants. We did so by tracking the emissions rate reductions that would be necessary under the EPA’s plan in each state from 2020 through 2030. Our analysis – without reliance upon any witchcraft or magic potions – found many more tricks than treats. 

Based on EPA’s own projections, the nine “treated” states are actually permitted to increase their emissions rates from 2020 to 2030 while still achieving compliance with the agency’s startling carbon mandate. Meanwhile, the remainder of the states that are subjected to the EPA’s hair-raising carbon reduction plan will have to implement a dramatic reconfiguration of their electricity system at the frightful cost of increased electricity costs and diminished economic opportunity. To place your eyeballs upon the details of the pumpkin carving behind our predictions, check here

Interestingly, the states lucky enough to receive a treat from the EPA’s carbon regulations have already been scaring consumers with some of the highest electricity prices in the country. Unfortunately, the EPA’s new rule will impose dreadful electricity rate increases and cap-and-trade economies upon poor souls everywhere. 

This graphic provides a ghostly indication that EPA’s carbon regulations do not merely seek to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Instead, the EPA is dishing out tricks and treats by imposing a cap-and-trade regime that will drive up prices in low-cost electricity states and redistribute the revenues associated with those higher prices to select West Coast and Northeast states. Whether merely an apparition or an intended enchantment of the EPA’s regulation, the disparities between the ‘tricked’ and ‘treated’ states shines a light on the inherent unfairness of the EPA’s scheme.  


Sean Hackbarth Power lines near a coal power plant in Winfield, West Virginia.Power lines near a coal power plant in Winfield, West Virginia. Photo credit: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg.

After President Obama announced in August that EPA would issue unprecedented carbon regulations that would restructure America’s electricity system, defenders of affordable and reliable electricity waited waited … and waited … and waited for the "Clean Power Plan" to be published in the Federal Register.

When those regulations were finally publish, the U.S. Chamber and others swung quickly into motion to block the Administration’s unlawful action.

Lawsuits Filed

First came the lawsuits.

So far, 26 states, several business associations, and several businesses, filed suits.

ICYMI: .@EPA's #CostlyPowerPlan BY THE NUMBERS = 26 states + 16 orgs (including @USChamber) say NO!!! pic.twitter.com/1cd5N5SEye

— Energy Institute (@Energy21) October 26, 2015

For instance, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is leading a case that includes the National Association of Manufacturers, National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), and more than a dozen trade associations. They challenged the EPA’s regulation for carbon emissions from existing power plants and have asked the D.C. Circuit to delay implementing them until the court rules on their ultimately legality.

In a statement, U.S. Chamber President and CEO Tom Donohue called the regulations “a massive executive power grab.” As the court filing explains:

The Executive Branch may be frustrated that Congress rebuffed attempts to enact laws authorizing the “cap-and-trade” regime that the Rule now seeks to replicate, but EPA cannot circumvent the political process by legislating through regulation.

On a press call, Karen Harbert, president and chief executive officer of the U.S. Chamber’s Institute for 21st Century Energy, said the carbon rules will “raise the cost of operations of every business that uses electricity” and “raise the price of electricity for American households.”

Harbert pointed out that EPA was “relying on 300 words” in the little-used Section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act to allow EPA to micromanage electricity choices across the country.

In its brief supporting the stay, the U.S. Chamber-led group warns that EPA’s carbon regulations for existing power plants “will cause immediate, irreparable harm.” For instance, EPA estimates that the rule will cause as much as 11,000 megawatts of coal-fired generation to be retired by 2016. When that happens, communities near these power plants as well as the coal mines that supply fuel to them will see job losses that will ripple to local schools, governments, and small businesses.

Unless the EPA's rules are stayed until the court determines their legality, business groups worry we’ll see a replay of what happened with EPA’s mercury regulations.

Earlier this year, the Supreme Court ruled that EPA improperly crafted mercury rules. However, the defeat didn’t bother EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. Prior to the ruling, 166 coal facilities were retired. McCarthy bragged to HBO late night talk show host Bill Maher the damage had been done: “Most of [coal power plants] are already in compliance, investments have been made, and we’ll catch up. And we’re still going to get at the toxic pollution from these facilities.”

Congressional Review Act

Speaking of Congress, Members aren’t sitting still either.

Congress has the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to fight back against as unnecessary and costly regulations. Under the law, Congress can send resolutions of disapproval to the President for his signature or veto.

Will join @SenCapito to introduce resolution of disapproval to stop @EPA's over-reaching Clean Power Plan regulations (1/2)

— Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (@SenatorHeitkamp) October 23, 2015

In the Senate, two bipartisan sets of CRA resolutions of disapproval will be filed: one by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.); and one by Sens. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.V.) Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.). In the House, Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.) has filed two resolutions of disapproval

Whether it's in the courtroom or in Congress, you can be sure opponents of EPA’s carbon regulations will fight tooth and nail to ensure that American businesses and communities continue to have affordable and reliable electricity.

.@SenateMajLdr Mitch McConnell Introduces Measure to Overturn EPA’s Regulation on New #Coal-Fired Plants https://t.co/xgLlACHysb

— Sen. McConnell Press (@McConnellPress) October 27, 2015