The Environmental Protection Agency will issue new rules Friday to crack down on power-plant pollution. The rules won't target plants producing the toxic, black clouds of smoke billowing from shabby industrial buildings. Technology has put those unhappy days behind us. The administration is instead going after the very air we exhale — carbon dioxide — as if it were evil.
Carbon dioxide is what allows plants to flower and grow, and we'd have no oxygen to breathe without it. It's neither toxic nor villainous. CO2 is used to make soda pop and soda water, wine, beer and — irony alert — it can be pumped into ponds to produce algae, which can then be used to make biofuel to reduce the production of carbon dioxide. But defining carbon dioxide as a pollutant enables the EPA to continue making war on coal, forcing coal-fired power plants to install expensive carbon-dioxide capture devices. The same "carbon-capture" effect, for example, could be simulated by requiring EPA scientists to wear a plastic bag over their heads.
This unnecessary equipment requirement will deliver a fatal blow to coal, just as the plastic bags would deliver a fatal blow to the scientists. "The American people should not be fooled," says Robert M. "Mike" Duncan, president of the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity. "If reports are true, the EPA is set to issue a rule that will completely halt the development of new coal-fueled plants by requiring they meet unachievable carbon standards."
The pretext for the EPA action is the fairy tale that carbon dioxide has caused global warming, even though the globe is cooling, not warming. The EPA refuses to acknowledge the swiftly accumulating evidence. Winston Churchill once described a fanatic as "someone who can't change his mind and won't change the subject."
White House officials disguise their fanaticism in a strategy of "all of the above," including coal. President Obama was more candid than that in the campaign of 2008, promising to retrofit coal plants to cap greenhouse gases. He conceded that this would cause a spike in electricity rates. Joe Biden made it even more clear. "No coal plants in America," he cried, adding that the dynamic Democratic duo were "not supporting clean coal."
One of the president's climate-change advisers, Daniel P. Schrag, said earlier this year that "the one thing the president really needs to do now is to begin the process of shutting down the conventional coal plants. Politically, the White House is hesitant to say they're having a war on coal. On the other hand, a war on coal is exactly what's needed."
The first line of casualties in this war will be the coal miners, when they find the gates to the mines padlocked by the EPA. Miners in red states such as Kentucky, West Virginia, Texas and Wyoming can't expect sympathy from Mr. Obama. He's no fan of the "bitter clingers" who call Pennsylvania's coal country home, either.
Critics of coal argue that solar power is a viable alternative, but despite enormous subsidies, solar power delivers a mere 0.11 percent of America's energy needs. These critics should think twice before celebrating the administration's triumph over coal. One day soon they will turn the key in their plug-in hybrid and go only to Nowhere.