Is it really the end of the electricity system?

So the EPA has decided to actually do its job of protecting the environment and the health of the American people by limiting the amount of mercury, dioxin, arsenic, and other poisonous and carcinogenic chemicals that coal-fired power plants will be allowed to emit.  This proposed EPA regulation will only limit emissions of the most toxic and destructive chemicals.

The coal-fired power plant owners/operators will still be free to annually spew millions of tons of carbon dioxide into the air.  And considering that some experts contend the extraction and burning of coal is the single most destructive large-scale human activity outside of full-scale war, those power plant owners/operators are probably getting off easy.  But the new EPA regulation is still too much for some of the coal plant owners/operators to abide.

Their response to the EPA decision has been predictably apocalyptic.  We’ll all be freezing in the dark in the winter and sweating in the dark in the summer.  We might each be able to keep a couple of 60-watt lights on in our houses – if we’re lucky.  It’ll trigger the collapse of large-scale electricity generation and the electricity grid system.  Oh, please.

About half of the coal-fired plants in the U.S. already have the pollution control equipment needed to remove those toxic chemicals from their emissions.  But the half that don’t have the pollution control equipment still charge as much for their electricity as the half that do.

What that means is that half the power plant owners/operators are required to spend the money to strictly limit toxic pollution from their plants, while the other half receive enormous profits and bonuses for poisoning vast areas and huge numbers of people.  The new EPA regulation will level the playing field.

The owners/operators of the power plants lacking pollution control equipment have only continued to pump out those toxic chemicals because of the socialization of the indirect costs (sickly, developmentally-challenged children being born, higher rates of cancers for people in the effected areas, and thousands of premature deaths and tens of thousands of emergency room visits each year from heart attacks and asthma attacks caused by those chemicals).

Do you think the owners/operators of those power plants lacking pollution equipment have to pay for the wide-spread carnage created by the unfettered emission of those chemicals?  Uh, no.  Those costs are paid by society in general, and the unfortunate individuals and families harmed by the effects of those chemicals in particular. 

Trust me, if the owners/operators of those coal-fired plants lacking pollution control equipment had been forced to pay those indirect costs, those plants would all have the best, most state-of-the-art pollution control equipment in the world installed on them.

So which do you think is more important: maintaining the huge profits and bonuses of the owners/operators of those toxic chemical spewing power plants, or protecting the lives and health of the people harmed by emissions from those power plants through no fault of their own?

About the Author

Mark H. Witte is a strong proponent for energy efficiency and renewable energy, and believes individuals should have more control over how the energy for their homes is produced.