To Defend Preposterous Claim That Clean Power Plan Lowers Energy Bills, OAR Chief McCabe Cites New England Experience (region is mired in energy crisis)

by William Yeatman on April 17, 2015

in Blog

On Tuesday morning, EPA Office of Air and Radiation chief testified before a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on draft legislation that would allow States to “opt out” of the Clean Power Plan.

McCabe did not acquit herself well. Unlike her boss, she is not adept at the black arts of congressional testimony. Instead of smooth obfuscation, McCabe all too often goes off script, as was evident on Tuesday.

I noted one of her flubs yesterday; with this post, I’d like to draw your attention to another. When pressed by Rep. David McKinley (R-West Virginia) on the costs of the regulation to his constituents, McCabe replied with the incredible claim that the Clean Power Plan would decrease, rather than increase, utility bills. I’ve excerpted their exchange immediately below.

OAR Chief Janet McCabe: Given the way the industry is going, in terms of employing energy efficiency, we lay out that our proposal will lead to lower energy bills by 2030. So energy bills will go down.

Rep. David McKinley: Wait. I want to make sure I’m clear here. You say energy prices will go down?

OAR Chief Janet McCabe: Energy bills will go down.

Rep. David McKinley: How in the world are energy bills going to go down.

OAR Chief Janet McCabe: With energy efficiency, people will be buying less electricity.

Rep. David McKinley: Are you serious? You really believe this?

OAR Chief Janet McCabe: I do. We’re seeing it all across the country. We’re seeing it in places like New England, where they’ve been very aggressive on energy efficiency. If we use less energy, our bills can go down. And our carbon emissions can go down.

To recap: OAR chief Janet McCabe claimed before Congress that the Clean Power Plan would reduce energy bills. Her evidence for this claim was to cite the New England experience.

This is just bizarre. In fact, one of the big energy stories this winter was…the energy crisis in New England! Energy bills “skyrocketed” in the region, because New England States over the last decade went too green, too fast. In getting off coal, the region vastly increased the amount of natural gas it uses for electricity. As a result, during the winter, demand for gas for electricity now competes with demand for gas for heating, and the region doesn’t yet have the pipeline capacity to satisfy both. Prices for both heating and power (i.e., “energy bills”) have increased precipitously. The resulting hardship was captured thusly by the New York Times last December:

For months, utility companies across New England have been warning customers to expect sharp price increases, for which the companies blame the continuing shortage of pipeline capacity to bring natural gas to the region. Now that the higher bills are starting to arrive, many stunned customers are finding the sticker shock much worse than they imagined.

In this fashion, McCabe’s example of a Clean Power Plan-type success in lowering energy prices actually demonstrates the exact opposite!

However, she is right, in an unfortunate way. The Clean Power Plan effectively incorporates New England-style energy policies (and much more, alas). Therefore, if the Clean Power Plan survives, the rest of the country can expect to experience New England’s energy misery (and worse).

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