Post Election EPA Regulations

         Leading up to the election EPA regulations were put on hold pending the result. Upon President Obama’s reelection it seems that the EPA plans on tightening regulations and laws – especially with regards to Greenhouse Gas Emissions. Pessimism has clearly been shown in the markets as several major coal companys’ shares dropped 10%. Here is a very brief outline of these new regulations.

According to this Forbes article “the agency is proposing the first source-specific emissions standards for new power plants which are so strict they will virtually eliminate coal as a fuel option for future electric power generation”. The same article goes on to say “These rules are projected to cost more than $300 to $400 billion a year, and will significantly raise the price of gas at the pump and energy in the home”.

While fiscal conservatives oppose the financial burden the new regulations will most definitely help the environment. According to the Washington Post the new regulations stand to “reduce U.S. carbon emissions anywhere from 5 percent to 12 percent below 2005 levels by 2020”. Although they too address the fact that these regulations will prevent new coal plants from being created.

So with these new regulations being put in place it seems clear that “Harsher energy regulations [will be] seen in Obama’s second term”. What does that mean for us, however? How can journalists fairly address both sides of the issue without statistical bias leaking in? Do you think these sources do a good job of addressing the issues at hand? Does the Forbes article focus too much on the monetary impact and not on the larger issue of the environment? And finally, is it fair for the EPA to impose such strict regulations that will halt new coal plants from being produced pending new technology that hasn’t been created yet? 

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3 Responses to “Post Election EPA Regulations”

  1. I actually didn’t realize these new laws were being implemented — but these journalists did a good job of putting the regulations simply and I found it very easy to decipher what was going on. It was interesting to read both sides of the story and it helped me formulate decisions. I think the ideas behind the new regulations are great; however, I question the financial feasibility of these laws. We undoubtedly need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but is it really fair to put regulations in place which require technology that hasn’t been created yet? There must be other ways to phase coal plants out more gradually.

    I think the Chicago Tribune article did the best job of relaying the facts and interpreting them from close to the middle.

    It’s surprising to me that a bigger deal wasn’t made about these potential regulations in the debates. With the projected impacts these regulations will have on the environment, the market and employment there could have been a lot of room to capture voters from either side of the issue.

  2. Because Forbes is a finance magazine, I don’t think they focused too much on the numbers rather than the environmental issues. While personally we may care more about the environmental issues (as PitE students, we should!), Forbes is writing to sell magazines, not to convert its readers into tree huggers. That being said, its only natural they would focus on the monetary aspect of the issue.
    As far as it being fair for the EPA to implement these laws, I guess it is a matter of opinion. If it is true that prices for gas and energy will go way up, than of course it’s not fair, especially for low or no income families who are barely scraping by as it is. I completely understand the need to take drastic measures in order to reduce our carbon footprint, but perhaps this would be more productive if done in a more cost effective way. However, if the article is spinning this in such a way that makes it seem like the average consumer will be affected when in reality they won’t (think about all the other issues in the election that only affect a small percentage of Americans) then it is not too drastic a move of the EPA.
    I think the Tribune and the Post did the best job of relating this story to everyday life and making it more accessible to the average reader, but this is because these are general newspapers while Forbes is a niche medium.
    I was also surprised that these issues weren’t put into the public eye sooner or on a larger scale, but that’s how it tends to be with environmental issues!

  3. In order for journalists to report on these issues, it’s important for them to find an appropriate balance between the environmental and social benefits of a regulation and the economic and social costs imposed by said regulation. Although different news sources are geared toward different audiences, and may not have an equal balance between these competing interests, a fair story should include both elements. That being said, I do think that the Forbes article was a little too light on the environmental benefits of EPA’s new regulations and should have included more information on the environmental and public health impact of coal fired power plants. At the same time, since Forbes is an economic and financial publication, it was more appropriate for the author to focus on the monetary impact of the regulations and how this may affect consumers and businesses.

    I think it’s definitely fair for EPA to create these regulations. Although they may be strict and may impact future energy infrastructure, they send the message that the United States does not want to perpetuate a dirty energy future. I don’t think that it matters cleaner coal technology is not available. Yes, it would be ideal to develop this technology in order to improve existing coal power plants, but these regulations may the change that is needed to shift our energy economy to one dominated by renewable energy sources rather than fossil fuels. In that sense, I think these strict regulations are completely fair. They may spur technological innovation and may create competition between energy companies to be greener and cleaner than their competitors. Moreover, they encourage the development of renewable technologies. Abandoning coal power and other fossil fuels in favor or renewables is our only option if we want to create a sustainable future and reduce the consequences of climate change. We have numerous forms of technology available to make this transition. More than anything, we need the political will to make this important switch.

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