(CNSNews.com) – Critics warn that implementing the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Clean Power Plan (CPP) to fulfill President Obama's pledge to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions under the Paris Agreement on Climate Change would force many more American households into “energy poverty”.
Signatory nations to the non-binding international pact, which Secretary of State John Kerry signed at the United Nations’ headquarters in New York on Friday, have agreed to drastic reductions in their use of cheap, abundant fossil fuels to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The CPP is the centerpiece of President Obama’s pledge to reduce CO2 emissions in the U.S. between 26 and 28 percent by 2025. In February, the U.S. Supreme Court voted 5-4 to delay implementation of the CPP while it is being challenged in court by 27 states.
But opponents warn that if CPP goes into effect, it will plunge many more Americans into “energy poverty” – defined as households that are forced to spend 10 percent or more of their annual income on energy, excluding transportation.
“It’s coming. We’re seeing rising electricity prices all across the U.S.,” Dan Kish, senior vice president for policy at the American Energy Alliance, told CNSNews.com. “This is consistent with President Obama’s promise in 2008 that under his plan, electricity rates ‘would necessarily skyrocket’.”
“The interesting thing is that electric rates are going up quite substantially across the board even though the price of our largest source of electricity – which in the U.S. is now natural gas – is at an historic low and demand is static,” he said.
Kish pointed out that the EPA’s “war on CO2” has already forced the closure of hundreds of power plants fueled by natural gas, coal and nuclear energy.
“Government policies are forcing people to close perfectly good power plants and building new plants.
"Even though the cost of fuel, such as natural gas, is low right now, ratepayers will have to pay for years” to cover the billions of dollars in construction costs for the new replacement plants, he told CNSNews.
“The Obama administration has changed the entire electricity industry from one run by private markets to one run by government,” Kish said.
“Unfortunately, this means higher electric bills and forcing many more people into energy poverty.”
The CPP “would definitely raise the cost of energy,” Marita Noon, executive director of a non-profit group, Energy Makes America Great, told CNSNews.com, pointing to California as an example of what will happen nationwide if the CPP goes into effect.
“California has eliminated the least costly source of electricity, coal, and dramatically increased wind and solar, which are more expensive,” she explained.
Noon added that California’s higher electricity rates have a disproportionate impact on low-income residents, who are sometimes faced with the difficult decision to “heat or eat”.
According to a July 2015 Manhattan Institute study entitled Less Carbon, Higher Prices, nearly one million California households (7.4 percent) are already living in “energy poverty” due to a state requirement that a third of all electricity generated in the state come from renewable sources by 2020 – “the most stringent among states without significant in-state (or close proximity to) hydroelectric generating capacity”.
The study noted that due to the higher cost of generating electricity using wind and solar instead of fossil fuels, the average undiscounted residential electric rate in California (18 to 21 cents/kilowatt hour) in 2014 was nearly twice the U.S. average (12 cents/kWh).
“When retail consumers subsidize electricity supplies at above-market costs, retail prices inevitably rise, even if the fuel is ‘free’,” the study explained.
“As the Golden State continues its pursuit of a low-carbon economy, its green-energy policies are driving rising numbers of Californians into energy poverty.”