'Moderate' Alternative to Bush's 'Clear Skies' is Anything but Moderate

Much to the dismay of environmental groups (or, equally plausibly, could it be to their liking, as a boon for fundraising?), support for the President’s Clear Skies initiative is growing.

Recently, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the National Association of Counties, and key governors in the South and West announced their backing for the plan, which will bring greater emissions reductions quicker and more cheaply than the status quo. Yet attention of late has focused on the Clean Air Planning Act (a.k.a. “the Carper bill”), principally because it has been deemed by some to be the “moderate” alternative to Clear Skies, that it’s (unrealistic) caps and timetables are the “middle ground,” and hence more politically attractive.

This moderation thesis is premised, for the most part, on the relative costs between the two bills. A so-called “EPA analysis” of the Carper bill released in May–which, notably, was quickly discredited by the agency itself–was characterized by some to mean that, as one media outlet put it, “industry would essentially see a negligible increase in its total cost of operating power plants than under the Bush plan.” It was also characterized that the CO2 controls in the Carper bill “added only a slight cost increase to industry.”

FACT: The Carper bill, relative to Clear Skies, is anything but moderate, and in fact would impose significant costs on businesses and the economy.

According to a newly released study by the Energy Information Administration (EIA), which compared Clear Skies with Carper, the costs associated with implementing Clear Skies between 2005 and 2025 would fall short of $25 billion. By contrast, projections of the cost of the Carper bill, under the most likely scenario studied, show costs of about $98 billion over the same period. That’s about $1,000 per household, and four times as much as Clear Skies.

If that difference isn’t convincing enough, EIA also found that, under an alternative scenario, the Carper bill’s price tag could run as high as $160 billion, or six and one-half times as much as Clear Skies.