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Guest Column: Clean power and family cars

By Staff | May 20, 2016

Say you recently bought a new car for the family. It seats five comfortably, meets current safety and gas mileage standards (called CAFE Standards by the Environmental Protection Agency), and you financed it for five years; not an uncommon thing to do in this day and age. You plan on keeping the car for five or six years and make your monthly payments, on time, each month. It’s clean inside and out, and you make sure the oil is changed according to the manufacturer’s specifications. Lastly, you park where it is unlikely to get door dings in any parking lot.

Yet two years into owning and paying for your new car, the EPA decides your vehicle needs to emit less pollution. You are then required to make modifications to attain 46 percent better gas mileage before you are able to renew your vehicle registration. It does not matter that you are still paying for your car, or at the time of purchase it met and even exceeded the current mileage standards; it now has to meet standards far and above previous standards and what is technologically possible, all at your expense. You cry “foul”, “unfair” and “not possible”, but are told, “No matter-your car has to meet the standards or else you will not be permitted to drive it on public roadways again.”

I would bet my next year’s income if this happened to any hard-working American citizen, or group of citizens, there would be an outcry. Attorneys general, governors, and U.S. senators alike would be notified and action would be demanded.

This scenario exists today. The EPA has acted in a capricious and arbitrary manner by passing Rule 111(d), the Clean Power Plan, as a way to make it seem innocuous to the general public. Essentially, Rule 111(d) requires coal fired power plants in North Dakota to reduce their carbon emissions by 46 percent. No matter technology does not currently exist to make our coal-powered generation that efficient. No matter facilities were built to the existing standards. No matter the power generating companies have continuously upgraded their facilities as new technologies have come online. And, no matter our power generating facilities are being depreciated over time. The EPA has spoken; they bypassed Congress and we must comply or risk limiting or losing our ability to generate power.

Because the EPA’s power has been seemingly elevated of that of the U.S. Congress, it is unlikely the rule will be reconsidered or even modified into a more reasonable tenet. This is why it is so very important for North Dakota to lead the way to protect 14,000 jobs, $100 million in annual tax revenue and $3.3 billion in economic impact by continuing to develop near-zero emission coal technology. Our policy makers must work with the industry to meet that goal.

If not, consider what this means to power consumption: Costs will significantly increase to replace power generated by coal, and we may even experience degradations of electric reliability. All the while we, as consumers of power, continue to pay for power generating facilities which may be forced to either produce less power, or somehow find a way to meet an almost unattainable reduction in emissions.

Now I ask, where is the outrage?

Peterson is CEO and president of Greater North Dakota Chamber.

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