A version of this post appears on National Journal’s Energy Experts page.

Last week I debated the Heritage Foundation on Fox Business about the EPA’s proposed rules over new fossil fuel power plants, in a segment subtly titled “Will EPA rules bankrupt the coal industry?”

The rules not only follow the John Roberts’ Supreme Court mandate to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, but recognize that competing technologies have eclipsed coal in terms of efficiency. A new combined cycle natural gas plant features capital costs of $764 million and levelized generation costs of $50.24/MWh—that’s capital costs 75% cheaper than scrubbed pulverized coal and 43% less expensive levelized generation costs than coal. Coal was the workhorse of the power industry for so long because it was cheap and more efficient than its rivals, and because we didn’t care about or fully understand the environmental costs. But new coal is no longer competitive, and these EPA rules simply enshrine the Supreme Court mandate for coal to better account for its environmental costs.

But during my Fox debate, the Heritage Foundation argued that the proposed rules would increase costs to consumers, while failing to provide any documentation. While there are expected to be costs to consumers for rules over existing plants (to be drafted beginning 2014), there is time to develop tools to mitigate those costs. But we do not expect there to be costs to consumers for the rules over new power plants. What Heritage did was to intentionally mislead the public by conflating these proposed rules for plants not yet built with future rules for existing power plants. And, unfortunately, that’s the type of fact-challenged rhetoric that passes for policy analysis these days.

Some utilities, with management styles enshrined with state utility commissions, lack the acumen to efficiently respond to changing market dynamics. They remain beholden to outdated supply chains that led them to believe that they must continue to stick with coal, economics be damned.

I’m sure the Heritage Foundation didn’t lament the demise of the US typewriter manufacturing industry. But to see Heritage and others pump out false information about proposed public health rules mandated by the John Roberts Supreme Court is simply the reflection of vested, outmoded utility interests expecting to stick ratepayers with inefficient generation systems for another 50 years. Consumers deserve better.

Tyson Slocum is Director of Public Citizen’s Energy Program. Follow him on Twitter @TysonSlocum


  • Ron Tschudy

    The Heritage Foundation, quite simply, dishonors the term “think tank.” Shouldn’t we expect at least one person on their staff to resign in protest?

  • Lois Duvall

    It does seem that the Heritage Foundation is one of those non profit “think tank” front
    groups paid for by contributions of those wanting to keep the old coal fired plants and oil industry stallwarts.



    The planet is already on a trajectory to become uninhabitable. By 2025 we will pass the 2 degree Celsius increase, or a 4 degree fahrenheit increase, just like a fever in a human body, a REDLINE we said we wouldn’t cross and that’s without the additional 30-70% more pollution from the numerous accelerations the GOP-BIG OIL have in motion. With the processing of TAR SANDS, OIL SHALE, the 18 TRAIN CARS OF COAL BEING SHIPPED TO THE WEST COAST TO BE SHIPPED OFF TO CHINA, and the mass levels of methane waiting to be released from all the ice balls in all the oceans and the permafrost, which adds to the 7-17% of the mass volume of methane being released from fracking; each of these horrific accelerations can add an additional 30-70 % more pollution on top on the 90 million tons/day already being generated. Any of one of the above accelerations listed above put the planet over a permanent irreversible cliff, 2015. Humans have less than a decade to stop these horrific accelerations and begin to serious reverse the trend to pass the REDLINE by 2025. As it stands the planet is already on a trajectory to become uninhabitable, people under 50 will no longer have a future.

    GOP-BIG OIL don’t seem to care that the death toll from their current “DEATH SPIRAL POLICIES” have exceeded TENS of MILLIONS and HUNDREDS of BILLIONS in physical damages from sea level rise, severe weather events, and especially food crop failures which have shoved over 500 MILLION people into starvation and malnutrition since 2010, as the price of wheat 2010-2012, corn & soy beans in 2012 was driven up 40-45% due to those crop failures. 200 MILLION of those 500 MILLION were young vulnerable children. The DAMAGE REPORT by 2020 will be HUNDREDS of MILLIONS MURDERED and TRILLIONS of dollars of damage from the current GOP “DEATH SPIRAL POLICIES” and “MURDER FOR PROFIT ALLIANCES worth TRILLIONS.

    We could be growing GDP by 158% with MILLIONS of Green and Infrastructure JOBS, leave the DEBT in the dust and get a Sustainable Future as Amory Lovins lays out in REINVENTING FIRE. Lovins covered the PLAN in his TED TALK released May 2012.

    Instead the GOP and the corrupt corps who own 95% of the GOP, have nothing but “DEATH SPIRAL POLICIES” that have already killed, murdered really, TENS OF MILLIONS SINCE 2010 and “MURDER FOR PROFIT” alliances worth TRILLIONS, while they’re busy pretending they’re PRO-LIFE. Now HUMANS HAVE LESS THAN A DECADE TO STOP THE HORRIFIC ACCELERATIONS THAT ARE UNDERWAY. This means NO TAR SANDS, NO OIL SHALE, NO TRAIN CARS LOADED W COAL HEADED FOR THE WEST COAL, and NO MORE RELEASES OF MASS LEVELS OF METHANE FROM THE ICE BALLS IN ALL THE OCEANS AND PERMAFROST, & THE MORE THAN 1% RELEASE OF METHANE FROM ALL THAT FRACKING VOLUME. There is already a HUGE methane cloud hanging out over the Atlantic from all the methane being released from the ocean ice balls and methane is 23-30 times more destructive than carbon dioxide ever will be.They’re already destabilizing the food and water supply, the atmosphere from all the moisture being driven off the oceans, the jet stream as it slows down producing stronger ridges and troughs, and they’re stopping the Earth’s ability to vent heat back into space.

    GOP-BIG OIL needs to be INDICTED for: Crimes Against Humanity, 2) Breach of National Security, 3) MASS MURDER of tens of MILLIONS since 2010 that will be HUNDREDS of MILLIONS by 2020.

  • I watched the “debate” on Fox with Tyson. After noting some of the language used by the “moderator” (reporter) I’m afraid going on Fox to persuade anyone of the merits of the greener side of life is like trying to get Madonna to be a virgin again.
    The moderator starts out with “fight between green and machine.” That sounds like Luddites trying to get rid of all technology.

    Then she says the new rules are “harsh.” I guess that would depend on which side of the rule you’re on.
    And then she asks “how much will it ultimately pull from your pocketbook.” That presumes the new rules would. (no bias there)

    Then she uses the very old catch phrase “we are the Saudi Arabia of coal.” I don’t believe that was true in the 1940s when it first came out. Or in the 1970s when it was used again. But these words have power, especially to most people who don’t have the time to do the extensive research it takes to get beyond these ‘debates.’

    Towards the end of the piece she states “everybody agrees its an all of the above strategy.” Well, everybody doesn’t agree.
    (see why I don’t have a TV anymore?)

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