Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Charles Owens

May 28, 2014

New emission rules could spike electric bills the day after tomorrow

— — I don’t know about you, but the electric bill is one of the biggest monthly expenses I face nowadays. Granted, it’s gone down a few dollars now that the heat has been cut off once and for all, but it is still much higher than I think it should be. Sometimes I believe I should just sit in the dark when at home in the evening. In many instances, I cut most of the lights off. There are no fans going — at least not yet. And after the horrendous electric bills of the past winter, it is doubtful that I will plug up an air-conditioner anytime soon.

That’s why we should be concerned about recent headlines. It is easy to say that the so-called “war on coal” thing is nothing but a political debate. And that is true to a certain extent — as politics have certainly muddied the waters. But now Washington — or least new estimates from the Energy Department — are suggesting that our electric bills will go up by at least 4 percent on average this year thanks to the new carbon emission rules President Barack Obama is expected to unveil early next month. And that’s just for this year. By 2020, prices are expected to climb an additional 13 percent — and that prediction doesn’t include the costs of implementing the unprecedented new environmental rules. Other outside agencies suggest that electric bills could rise even higher in the coming years, the Associated Press reported last week.

All of this is happening because the current administration in Washington is determined to move our nation away from coal — and toward green energy sources such as wind and solar. The president, and a growing number of Democrats as well as some Republicans, say climate change is occurring and that our planet is in great danger. But the problem with the whole green energy push is that wind, energy and even natural gas can’t immediately replace coal. It will, in fact, take time to replace coal, which is still responsible for about 40 percent of our nation’s electricity production.

So whether you live in a coal-producing community or not, odds are you will be impacted by the transition in the form of higher electric bills. The push by the president to roll out these new rules — he says we can’t wait because climate change is a direct threat — comes at a terrible time for Democrats. The new emission limits could be announced as early as June 2 — even though Democrats have urged the president to wait until after the November elections. Many voters in coal-producing states like West Virginia or Virginia are likely to blame Democrats for this due to their political party affiliation with the president.

At the end of the day it can be argued that close connections can be made with the current climate change debate and the 2004 motion picture “The Day After Tomorrow” starring Dennis Quaid, Jake Gyllenhaal (the same actor who played a young Homer Hickam in the 1999 motion picture “October Sky”) and Emmy Rossum. In the movie, a sudden climate change shift brought on by — well I guess coal and other fossil fuels — results in an unprecedented global disaster culminating with a new ice age. Millions die — although Dennis Quaid’s character somehow manages to survive the subzero temperatures while walking for miles on frozen tundra that was once a major metropolitan city — and ultimately save the day (or at least his family).

It was a good, fun, dumb popcorn movie. I bought a ticket, and saw it opening weekend. And it has been running again on cable in recent weeks, as I watched a little bit of it again just a week or two ago. Yet politicians never mention this movie when discussing climate change. Why not? Folks would certainly be able to relate to it. It was a big box-office hit after all. And it would be a great way to connect with people when trying to explain the whole climate change argument.

Perhaps a real day after tomorrow is coming. We are certainly being told so by the politicians in Washington and a growing number of scientists. But before the next ice age arrives, it looks like our electric bills could be shooting through the roof. And that’s bad news for everyone — regardless of how you may or may not feel about coal.

Charles Owens is the Daily Telegraph’s assistant managing editor. Contact him at cowens@bdtonline.com. Follow him @BDTOwens.

 

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