A report from the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet dated June 20th details that 92 percent of Kentuckians get their energy from coal-fired power plants. Coal is clearly a part of Kentucky's past and present, it but must also remain part of our future -- and the nation's future. It is America's most abundant fossil fuel source, with a 250-year supply lying beneath our land here in Kentucky and elsewhere.
Thanks to that abundance, coal has been our most consistently affordable fossil fuel for decades. And advancements in coal-burning technology today have us in sight of an era of zero-emissions coal combustion -- an important step for a nation seeking make the most of its domestic energy riches in a responsible manner.
Despite these advances, coal continues to get a bad name. On September 20th, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued new source performance standards for new coal- and natural gas-fired electric generating units. There is growing concern that the EPA will follow suit and issue comparably tough standards for existing units. The EPA has offered little justification for these aggressive standards that will crush businesses and the economy.
In the last 18 months, more than 375 coal-fired units have been scheduled for retirement. Nearly 300 of those units have been attributed at least in part to an inability to economically comply with recent Clean Air Act regulations coming out of the EPA. Roughly, that totals one-sixth of America's coal fleet.
It gets worse. This war on coal goes beyond business.
These new regulations will pass the cost of compliance onto the consumer. Without affordable, reliable coal, utilities would be forced to choose between other sources of energy -- natural gas, nuclear power, or wind/solar power. If utilities are forced to rely more on these other sources of energy, and prices go up, Kentucky consumers and businesses could be confronted by substantially higher electricity bills. That would be very bad news for our still-fragile economy.
In June I joined several members of the Kentucky delegation in writing to the President to voice our strong opposition to the new source performance standards. I have also signed on to a joint resolution being led by Rep. McKinley disapproving of these new regulations, which would require the application of new technologies that are not even commercially available. The joint resolution states our disapproval of these new regulations and that the rules will have no force or effect.
The EPA must wake up to the economic realities of our nation and its electricity-driven economy and acknowledge coal's critical and ever advancing role in our energy agenda. Over the past four decades, emissions have been substantially reduced by the U.S. coal fleet, which only accounts for three percent of greenhouse gas emissions, while China and India combine for 23 percent of emissions and are projected to continue increasing. It's time we push back on regulations with heavy price tags that overstep their bounds, essentially regulating certain industries out of existence, with only the promise of a very small environmental improvement. There's a fine line between actually protecting our environment and recklessly crippling our economy. The EPA seems to be interested in the latter.