President Obama failed to persuade either house of Congress to declare war on carbon dioxide, and his Environmental Protection Agency has suffered significant reversals in federal court.He has now indicated he will use his executive powers as president to lower carbon emissions.Leadership of the administration's war on coal will pass
from former EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson to the perhaps even more anti-coal Gina McCarthy.The agency has already put the kibosh on new coal-fired power plants and impose other rules that forced utilities to shut down older plants and invest billions of dollars to upgrade what's left.
Those billions come out of the pockets of residential and industrial consumers.But President Obama is out to control the climate, and observers expect yet another turn of the screw - EPA regulations that would force existing power producers to emit less carbon dioxide by using more natural gas instead.At the moment, the price of gas has cratered and consumers are getting a break. But the fuel is also being looked to as a source of chemical feedstock and transportation fuel.
Even with huge reserves of shale gas available, greater demand will eventually create more competition for that resource as well. If prices rose, and coal production could not . . .Well, Americans would just have to live through it.There's another risk as well.The president is out to change the climate, and has made it clear that the cost to the American consumer and American industry does not concern him.But the president and his EPA are - in the absence of any apparent economic convictions on Democrats' part - speaking for all Democrats.He was re-elected to a second and term and will not face voters again.Other Democrats are not so lucky. Many will be on the ballot in 2014.It might be more prudent for Democrats - in Congress and on the state level - to develop some convictions about what is sensible energy policy and what their constituents might find economically destructive instead.