How Biden's New Environmental Rule Could Force Coal and Gas Plants To Shut Down Entirely

EPA's stringent emission standards mandate use of green tech that 'doesn't really exist,' experts say

May 11, 2023

The Biden administration is imposing near-impossible emission standards on coal and gas plants that force them to adopt the use of expensive, unproven green technology—or shut down.

President Joe Biden's Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday morning unveiled the standards, which force coal and gas power plants to slash their carbon emissions a whopping 90 percent between 2035 and 2040. To meet those strict standards, the agency is advising the plants to use carbon capture technology to store the emissions underground before they hit the atmosphere.

But carbon capture technology is both extremely expensive and largely unproven—at the moment, no power plant in the country uses it, and implementing carbon capture would require the construction of billions of dollars in pipelines to funnel emissions underground. As a result, energy experts and federal lawmakers are arguing that the standards are aimed at regulating fossil fuel plants out of business.

"By mandating the use of technology that doesn't really exist on fossil fuel power plants, Biden and company are bringing the country to its knees, threatening to force the closure of the majority of reliable baseload and peaking power plants," Heartland Institute environmental policy expert Sterling Burnett said. West Virginia Democratic senator Joe Manchin concurred with Burnett, saying in a Wednesday statement that the Biden administration "is determined to advance its radical climate agenda and has made it clear that they are hellbent on doing everything in their power to regulate coal and gas-fueled power plants out of existence."

Biden's power plant rule is the latest of many strict environmental regulations the Democrat has unveiled to fight climate change. In the last year alone, for example, Biden's Energy Department has proposed or finalized energy efficiency rules targeting gas stoves, washing machines, refrigerators, and lightbulbs. "Collectively," the department said in February, "these energy efficiency actions will reduce greenhouse gas emissions … and support President Biden's ambitious clean energy agenda to combat the climate crisis."

Biden's Environmental Protection Agency seems to understand that fossil fuel plant operators may prefer to shut down their operations rather than comply with new standards—the agency's rule "allows plants that agree to close in the first half of the 2030s to avoid most or all of the pollution-reduction mandates," according to Politico. But a widespread shuttering of fossil fuel plants would have a crippling effect on the nation's power grid and energy independence, experts say.

Coal and gas combine to generate roughly 60 percent of America's electricity, and without those energy sources, "Biden will have overseen the dismantling of the least expensive, most reliable large power system in the world," Burnett said. The materials needed to produce Biden's preferred green energy alternatives—wind and solar—are also controlled by China, making green electricity "the death knell of America's global economic competitiveness and a dream come true for a hostile China," according to Heartland Institute president James Taylor.

"We simply cannot remain globally competitive if we eliminate the utilization of America's most affordable, reliable energy sources," Taylor said.

The Biden administration defended its power plant rule, with the Environmental Protection Agency arguing that Biden’s green energy push "is adding momentum for technologies like carbon capture and storage."

"EPA took account of this significant technologic and economic progress in developing the proposed rule," the agency said in a statement.

Still, the administration's optimism could be dashed by impending legal challenges to the rule. Energy and Environment Legal Institute senior fellow Steve Milloy said the "illegal" rule "has no chance of withstanding legal scrutiny" given a recent Supreme Court ruling that limited the Environmental Protection Agency's ability to regulate fossil fuel power plants. Former George W. Bush environmental official Jeff Holmstead, meanwhile, said the rule has "serious legal vulnerabilities" given its reliance on questionable carbon capture technology.

"I don't think it would be that hard to say, 'Look, this technology hasn't been adequately demonstrated yet,'" Holmstead told Politico.