Guest view: Goal should be for strong coal

By John Shimkus and Rodney DavisSeptember 29, 2013 

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, under the president's directive through his Climate Action Plan, issued a rule on Sept. 20 that will kill the future for coal and raise costs for electricity.

The rule limits the release of carbon-dioxide at any new coal power plant. In reality, the rule is a ban on constructing new coal-fired power plants as there is no technology commercially available and capable of meeting the standards set.

For those who say use carbon capture and sequestration, there is no full-scale power plant that is currently utilizing this technology. While some are under construction, that doesn't mean it will be successful. Plus the cost of such technology is tremendous.

We understand that the climate changes. Temperatures rise and fall over time and even minor changes can have great effects, as evidenced in Greenland. (Shimkus visited Greenland in 2008.) And we owe it to future generations to ensure that our environment is safe and clean.

Yet, unilateral, job-killing proposals like this rule, or cap and trade, do nothing more than increase the cost of doing business in America and reduce our competitiveness in the global economy. Even if the United States reduces its carbon emissions, many other nations around the globe will continue to increase their rate of emissions, and the United States will face the harsh economic effects of this rule alone.

In fact, carbon dioxide emissions in the U.S. actually decreased last year by 3.8 percent. This represents the lowest levels since the mid-1990s. At the same time, carbon dioxide emissions around the world increased last year to the highest levels ever on record.

So while we are doing our part, the world is falling behind. This rule will penalize consumers by jeopardizing energy reliability and increasing utility costs to families and businesses across Illinois.

What are the real effects of this rule? Forget about new coal-fired power plants being built. Thus, forget about new coal mines being opened. The effects could eventually include the closing of both existing power plants and coal mines, putting thousands of workers out of their jobs, including many right here in Illinois.

Additionally, without the reasonably priced base load electricity generated by coal-fired power plants, the president and EPA want us to move toward renewable power. While wind and solar are increasing the amount of electricity they generate, they are reliant on factors that do not permit them to be considered for our base load needs.

Luckily, natural gas is booming -- no thanks to the president and EPA. Our efforts in Congress have been to keep the EPA out of regulating fracking. We hope the future remains bright for natural gas, but that doesn't mean we should shove coal aside.

What happens when cheaper and more reliable electricity generation is removed from our nation's power fleet? Higher prices and more brownouts. Is that what you want to see happen? We don't.

And once they think we've forgotten about this rule, next year comes the whopper: a rule restricting carbon emissions from existing plants, which sets a dangerous path for America, resulting in an over-reliance on a single fuel source for our electricity generation.

We promise to continue to fight the implementation of this rule and future anti-coal rules through legislative and funding means to ensure we have a true all-of-the-above national energy policy.

U.S. Rep. John Shimkus represents the 15th District, sits on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and is a co-chairman of the Coal Caucus. U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis represents the 13th District and is a member of the Coal Caucus.

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