WHO SAYS President Obama doesn’t have an energy policy? Last month it was boldly on display as the Environmental Protection Agency published rules restricting CO2 emissions for power plants. Coupled with dramatic limits on mercury emissions issued in December, the new rules will fundamentally reshape power generation in America. Aside from the 15 plants already under construction, there will probably never be another coal-fired electric plant built in the United States.
That’s bad news for nearly 200,000 workers who depend directly on the coal industry for their jobs. It may be bad news for consumers as well, but only time will tell. There’s lots of cheap natural gas around today that could fill the gap. But with coal currently meeting 45 percent of the country’s electricity demand, this represents a wholesale reordering of America’s power industry. It’s a policy all right, but one where no one really knows the long-term consequences.