Recently President Obama announced plans to sidestep Congress to implement sweeping new environmental regulations. These regulations likely will result in significant job loss and economic hardship for Illinoisans, particularly our neighbors in Southern Illinois. In releasing his Climate Action Plan on June 25, the president has directed the Environmental Protection Agency to draw up regulations limiting carbon dioxide emissions for new and existing power plants, effectively launching an assault on coal power, potentially driving up consumer costs and sacrificing thousands of Illinois jobs.
Because coal is Illinois’ second largest source of energy, this is very bad news for Illinois families, workers and businesses — anyone who depends on affordable energy or coal-related jobs. It is imperative that Illinois’ federal representatives like Rep. Bill Enyart stand up for the thousands of families in their districts who stand to lose their livelihood due to the administration’s radical environmental agenda.
While the details of the regulations are still withheld by the administration, President Obama has always been very open about his disapproval of coal. In 2008, he campaigned on a plan to “bankrupt” coal power plants through regulation. Now five years later, he is on the cusp of grinding this crucial American industry to a halt.
Coal is a vital resource all across the country, but especially so in Illinois. Nearly 40 percent of our state’s energy and 12,000 jobs come directly from the coal industry. Blocking new power plants and closing existing ones, as the EPA intends to do, will only serve to take jobs from workers, close businesses, and increase monthly utility bills on households at a time when the state’s unemployment rate (9.1 percent) is nearly two points higher than the national average.
Unfortunately, onerous regulations are just one way the Washington establishment will attack affordable energy. A tax on carbon emissions, proposed by two senators earlier this year, is another common suggestion to crowd coal out of the market. Carbon taxes have been thoroughly studied by economists the world over and, like the EPA regulations, would have devastating effects on hard working Illinoisan families and offer only marginal improvements to the atmosphere.
A study by the National Association of Manufacturers calculated that a carbon tax could increase utility prices, food prices and transportation costs for average citizens, while slashing coal production by 50 percent over 10 years. This would severely reduce the standard of living for all Americans and completely gut the economy of Illinois’ coal country.
A vote on a congressional resolution, already co-sponsored by Reps. John Shimkus and Rodney Davis, acknowledging the dangers of a carbon tax is expected soon.
This upcoming vote is a chance for Enyart to show bipartisan leadership in defense of Illinois jobs by joining his colleague in co-sponsoring this initiative. He stated he “will work tirelessly against … federal mandates that will increase energy costs, and decimate our Southern Illinois coal industry.” Now is the time to put those words into action.
David From is the Illinois state director of Americans for Prosperity.