The Green Agenda: A War on Poverty or a War on the Poor?

In Climate Change, Economics, Energy, Environment, Politics, The Big Picture by Kyle Jorstad2 Comments

On April 22, the political party which gave us the war on poverty will continue to push its agenda for green energy and renewable resources. Earth Day marks a celebration of Mother Nature and an opportunity to further her preservation. But at what cost?

Since 2005, the EPA has been granted authority by the Supreme Court to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. The most immediate result of this authority is a push by the Obama Administration and the EPA for the Clean Power Plan (temporarily stayed by the Supreme Court), a set of policies which, according to NERA Economic Consulting, would cut carbon dioxide emissions from power plants by 19-21 percent, with long-term reductions of up to 35 percent from 2005 levels.

The regulations would require compliance from power plants, leaving two options: either pay to cut emissions, or shut down.

Yet the real goal behind policies such as the CPP is not to curb CO2 emissions—though this may be the best way to sell the regulations to the public. Regulations negatively impacting carbon fuel power plants such as coal and natural gas are instead intended to eliminate vast tracts of our energy infrastructure, leaving openings to be filled by ‘greener’ sources such as the solar, wind, and hydropower favored by the government via vast subsidies and grants.

What the government is unwilling to admit is the United States’ sheer dependence on carbon fuels.

The Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory depicts the estimated U.S. energy use for 2012 by energy source. A quick glance says it all: renewables simply are not competitive with conventional energy sources. Cumulatively, carbon fuels contributed 78.1 percent of consumed energy, while renewables only supplied 8.832 percent, even in an economic climate disproportionately slanted towards the success of green enterprises. In addition, solar and wind require much more land, among other resources, to produce a fraction of the energy produced by conventional sources.

The impact? Not only would CO2 emission regulations decrease our energy infrastructure’s total output, but operating costs for the remaining plants would significantly increase as they implement costly systems to curb emissions.

Whichever way you spin it, the outcome is the same:  CO2 emissions regulations will cause energy prices to skyrocket, and other market sectors will follow.

These costs don’t stop at the power plant—they follow the power right into consumers’ homes. NERA predicts average electricity retail rate increases by 11-14 percent annually through 2033 with some states peaking at rates near 40 percent, reflecting an overall expenditure of almost $300 billion. Others such as Forbes predict even higher average annual increases approaching 35 percent for specific energy industries. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce even predicts the CPP would eliminate 224,000 jobs annually.

These higher energy costs disparately impact families at or near the poverty line, with the lowest fifth of income earners already expending 24 percent of their annual income on energy.

Increasing energy costs force families to choose between energy and other essential services such as medical care. The NEADA found that 42 percent of low-income households facing higher energy bills went without medical or dental care, and 38 percent avoided filling prescriptions for essential treatment.

But astronomical energy bills are acceptable, since the government only wants to help Americans, right?

Think again. Both President Obama and the EPA recognized up front the impacts a “green” future would have on the American public. President Obama stated in 2008 that under his energy plan, “electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket.” In fact, the EPA’s own regulatory analysis predicts a 19 percent reduction in coal-driven power, and a 28 percent reduction in coal production. Without renewable infrastructure in place to compensate for energy deficits, declines in coal-fired power will subsequently result in higher alternative carbon fuel usage, and higher prices to fill the gap left by closing coal plants.

What’s worse, the U.S. cannot unilaterally address CO2 emissions. CPP regulations would only decrease world CO2 emissions by roughly 1-2 percent without impacting global contributors such as China.

Though claiming to benefit the American economy and reduce world CO2 emissions, green policies fail on both fronts.

The war on poverty began as an honest effort “not only to relieve the symptom of poverty, but to cure it and, above all, to prevent it.” Democrats claim to focus on “building an economy that lifts up all Americans” in the face of falling wages and rising bills. Yet their actions speak louder than their words. Environmentalists and Democrats would leave poor Americans in the cold in pursuit of their clean, green future. The war on poverty has become a war on prosperity—and “green” policies assault the least prosperous among us.

Kyle Jorstad is a student at Grove City College studying political science with minors in Spanish and economics. Passionate for writing and educational discourse, Kyle plans enrolling in law school following graduation.



    Nice paper by Kyle. It is good to see our younger generation getting interested in stopping the government control of our lives as well as bankrupting the nation.

    James H. Rust, professor and policy advisor The Heartland Institute

  2. With that being said, one can imagine how much more it would impact a third world country like India or China that are heavily dependent on Coal-based energy and have a much larger population to support, majority of whom are under poverty level. Any layman in the streets of India aspires to see India become a developed nation like US and Europe (with complete energy independence). When countries like America themselves want to curtail the source of energy (Coal) that helped them develop, then we in the developing east have little hope. Unless we declare non-conformity to the green dragon with its helm at DC and Geneva.

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