Valdosta Daily Times

Z_CNHI News Service

June 6, 2014

Left tallies 'true cost' of coal with a political calculator

Editor's note: CNHI newspapers that are not weekly subscribers to Taylor Armerding's column may publish this one if they notify him at t.armerding@verizon.net.

Why shouldn’t Americans – in their homes and businesses – have to pay the “true cost” of energy from its various sources?

That is one of the more compelling arguments coming from those who applaud the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s 645-page orgy of regulations issued a week ago. The regs, they cheer, finally will force operators of coal-burning power plants to build into their rate structure the cost of belching greenhouse gases and other pollutants into the air.

Yes, that would cause the price of coal to rise. It would thus make clean energy alternatives – wind, solar, hydro – more competitive, moving us into a healthier future that would lower the risk of climate change. (I guess the newer politically correct euphemism is “climate disruption.")

Well, maybe. All sorts of promises are being thrown about, as there are every time President Obama launches yet another initiative to grow the size and power of government.

It will cut carbon dioxide emissions from U.S. electricity generation by 30 percent by 2030 from 2005 levels! It will cut the number of childhood asthma attacks by 140,000! It will prevent at least 2,700 premature deaths! It will cut the number of work and school days lost to illness by nearly 500,000! And all of those benefits will save the American economy $25 billion to $62 billion annually - $7 in health benefits for every $1 invested!

But those benefits, even if they equal the promises, are a bit more modest given some context. The projected reduction in asthma attacks amounts to about 3.2 percent. The projected reduction in carbon dioxide emissions won’t even equal the worldwide increase in emissions from coal each year.

And, actually, nobody really knows for sure. A prediction about almost anything even five years out is a guess. Predictions 16 years out are little more than propaganda, no matter what side of the debate you’re on.

Coal advocates claim the new regulations will eliminate thousands of jobs, lower the average household income by $200 and cost businesses $50 billion annually. They don’t really know, either.

The point about paying the “true cost” of something is a fair one, however. If the cost of a product is subsidized by taxpayers, directly or indirectly, people will purchase more of it than they might otherwise, and competing technologies that might be better for the long-term health of the environment or economy will be at a disadvantage.

So, why not require that we pay the true cost of everything? This would seem to comport nicely with Obama’s regular declarations that this should be a country where “everybody pays their fair share, and everybody plays by the same rules.”

But the idea of expanding the “pay-the-true-cost-of-coal” philosophy into other areas sends the Obama administration and my liberal friends running for the hills. The real Obama philosophy is the Orwellian “everybody is equal, but some people are more equal than others.”

For starters, paying the true cost of everything would mean no more subsidies for energy darlings. No more hundreds of millions for manufacturers of solar panels or wind turbines. No more tax breaks for putting solar panels on your building or house.

Once we go beyond energy sources, it gets even more uncomfortable. Why should "homeowners” (as one of my friends used to say, “I don’t own ‘my’ home. The bank does.”) get a tax deduction for their mortgage payments? That’s cutting the “true cost,” and encourages people to buy bigger homes than they could otherwise afford, which then cost more to heat and cool, thus contributing to climate disruption.

Then there is rampant ignoring of the “true cost” of business failures, embraced by Obama to benefit select groups – his trade union allies – to the point of flouting the law.

As has been well documented, the government’s bailout of General Motors and Chrysler cost taxpayers an estimated $17 billion to $20 billion because the Obama administration, while it did demand that the companies go through bankruptcy, allowed the United Auto Workers to recover far more than secured and other unsecured creditors, in violation of bankruptcy law.

The companies were going broke in large measure because of inflated wage and benefit costs that were not even close to competitive. But instead of forcing the “true cost” of that excess on the companies and the union, the administration shielded them from it.

Under the plan imposed by our “everybody-plays-by-the-same-rules” president, Chrysler’s secured creditors were forced to accept 29 cents on the dollar; other unsecured creditors got nothing; and the UAW recovered most of the value of its unsecured claims.

And that, of course, protected the union from one of the most effective ways to bring a company out of a fantasy world, back to reality and viability. Bankruptcy law allows courts to throw out and rewrite existing union contracts; to eliminate unsustainable pay, benefits and work rules; and to make a company competitive without having to be propped up by more subsidies.

The UAW made some minor concessions, but those mostly applied to future employees and were not even close to what was needed. Indeed, a UAW memo to members said, “For our active members, these tentative changes mean no loss in your base hourly pay, no reduction in your healthcare, and no reduction in pensions.”

So much for requiring people to pay the “true cost” of their choices. The concept is a worthy one, but not if it is going to be so selectively, and politically, applied.

Taylor Armerding is an independent columnist. Contact him at t.armerding@verizon.net

1
Text Only
Z_CNHI News Service
  • Church's denied request for National Guard visit draws national attention

    A Missouri church finds itself in the middle of a media storm after the Missouri National Guard, citing short notice and time constraints, was not able to fulfill a request last week to appear at the church’s vacation Bible school.

    August 1, 2014

  • taylor.armerding.jpg Impeachment arms Democrats, doesn't end the Obama disaster

    Republicans may have grounds to impeach President Barack Obama but they would be daft to pursue a case they cannot win in a Senate controlled by Democrats. Impeachment would only drive the Democrats' fundraising and potentially squander the GOP's best opportunity in years to capture both houses of Congress then, in two years, the White House.

    August 1, 2014 1 Photo

  • 20140727-AMX-GUNS271.jpg Beretta, other gun makers heading to friendlier states

    In moving south and taking 160 jobs with it, Beretta joins several other prominent gunmakers abandoning liberal states that passed tough gun laws after the Newtown shooting.

    August 1, 2014 1 Photo

  • Screen Shot 2014-07-28 at 2.21.22 PM.png VIDEO: Dog 'faints' from excitement of seeing owner

    A reunion between a Pennsylvania woman who had been living overseas for two years and her pet schnauzer has gone viral, garnering nearly 20 million views on YouTube.

    August 1, 2014 1 Photo

  • Lindley, Tom.jpg Grandstands feel a little empty at NASCAR races

    Two decades after NASCAR started running at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the crowds have thinned considerably. It's probably no reflection on the sport's massive following, which stretches from coast to coast, but it surely doesn't NASCAR's image help when the cameras pan across all of those empty seats.

    July 31, 2014 1 Photo

  • Why a see-through mouse is a big deal for scientists

    A group of Caltech researchers announced in Cell Thursday their success in making an entire organism transparent. Unfortunately, this isn't any kind of "Invisible Man" scenario: The organism in question is a mouse, and the mouse in question is quite dead.

    July 31, 2014

  • Screen Shot 2014-07-31 at 2.12.55 PM.png VIDEO: Five-year-old doesn't want her brother to grow up

    Sadie, an adorable 5-year-old from Phoenix, wants her brother to stay young forever, so much so that her emotional reaction to the thought of him getting older has drawn more than 10 million views on YouTube.

    July 31, 2014 1 Photo

  • lockport-police.jpg Police department turns to Facebook for guidance on use of 'negro'

    What seems to be a data entry mistake by a small town police department in western New York has turned into a social media firestorm centered around the word "negro" and whether it's acceptable to use in modern society.

    July 31, 2014 3 Photos

  • The virtues of lying

    Two computational scientists set out recently to simulate the effects of lying in a virtual human population. Their results, published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, show that lying is essential for the growth of a cohesive social network.

    July 31, 2014

  • Sunburn isn't the only sign of summer that can leave you itchy and blistered

    You've got a rash. You quickly rule out the usual suspects: You haven't been gardening or hiking or even picnicking, so it's probably not a plant irritant such as poison ivy or wild parsnip; likewise, it's probably not chiggers or ticks carrying Lyme disease; and you haven't been swimming in a pond, which can harbor the parasite that causes swimmer's itch.

    July 30, 2014

Top News
Poll

Do you agree with the millage rate increases?

Yes. We need to maintain services
No. Services should have been cut.
     View Results