Carney and Schulz on Supremes’ CO2 Ruling

Two CEI veterans weigh on on this week’s Supreme Court decision reversing the Environmental Protection Agency’s decision to not regulate carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from new vehicles.

In today’s Washington Examiner, former Warren Brookes Journalism Fellow (now Examiner columnist) Tim Carney shines the spotlight on a little-noticed plaintiff in the case, Entergy Corporation.

Entergy, based in Louisiana, is a top player in the electricity industry (bringing in $11 billion in revenues last year) and the nation’s second-biggest nuclear power generator. The company supported the attorneys general in forcing the EPA to regulate carbon dioxide as a pollutant, and the company will profit if Congress does, in fact, create mandatory limits on carbon dioxide emissions.

Entergy began its amicus by declaring, “This case makes for strange bedfellows.” A closer look at Entergy’s business model makes it clear there is nothing strange about finding this company in bed with environmentalists and regulation-happy politicians…

[A]ny curbs on carbon dioxide would “squarely implicate” some of Entergy’s competitors. Entergy, again, is the No. 2 nuclear power producer in the country. Nuclear power plants produce virtually no carbon dioxide.

Natural gas is Entergy’s other strong suit, and while it gives off more carbon dioxide than nuclear, hydro, solar or wind power, it produces far less carbon dioxide than does coal. If the government slaps a tax on carbon dioxide, all of Entergy’s coal-fired competitors will see increased costs — a boon to Entergy and a bane to consumers…

Even better than a carbon dioxide tax for Entergy would be a cap-and-trade scheme. Cap-and-trade means Washington grants electricity producers, factories, or even drivers a certain number of greenhouse gas credits, and if you don’t use them up, you can sell them to some over-emitting sap who must buy them or face the EPA enforcers.

Under such a scheme, Entergy’s low emission nuclear plants would give the company plenty of credits to sell. But cap-and-trade would also allow Entergy to turn the company’s voluntary “greenhouse gas reduction commitment,” into real money.

But is Entergy shooting itself in the foot? Maybe. Consider this point from CEI Editorial Director Max Schulz in TCSDaily yesterday:

The ruling left environmental activists ecstatic…

The irony is that the beneficiary of Monday’s ruling won’t be wind power, solar power, or any of the other renewable technologies favored by the Green establishment. Their economic and technological limitations are too severe for them ever to occupy more than a small niche in the American energy economy. Instead, one of the winners from Massachusetts v. EPA just may be something that many of the environmentalists who brought the suit have long abhorred: nuclear power. Like renewables, nuclear power generates electricity with no pollutants or greenhouse gas emissions. But unlike renewables, nuclear is capable of generating reliable power on a massive scale, which is what our country’s future energy demands will require…

If you think the nuclear industry is happy with the ruling, think again. That’s because the nuclear “industry,” such as it is, consists of investor-owned utilities that own coal-fired power plants in addition to nuclear plants. Monday’s decision, while potentially good for their nuclear holdings, is almost certainly bad for their coal ones.

And Entergy, while it may take pride in “buying nuclear energy plants that no one wanted,” does have some coal assets.

Finally, Max notes another casualty of the ruling, in addition to consumers:

The casualty in this case is the rule of law, with five justices taking it upon themselves to make environmental policy because they disagree with the route spelled out by elected representatives in Congress.

To justify completely disregarding the express intent of Congress on how to deal with climate change issues, the slim majority on the Court had to perform some legal acrobatics. Namely, it had to find that Massachusetts or any other state had standing to bring the suit in the first place. Earlier efforts by environmental groups to pressure EPA were shot down because they could not prove they had been harmed.