Environment
11:33 am
Tue February 19, 2013

Rep. Whitfield: EPA Will Have 'a Big Battle on Their Hands' With Greenhouse Gas Rules

Kentucky Congressman Ed Whitfield was on Platts Energy Week this weekend, responding to the energy and climate change issues President Obama mentioned in his State of the Union address. Whitfield, a Republican, is the chairman of the House Energy and Power subcommittee, and the interview can be summed up like this:

  • Congressional action on climate change and greenhouse gas emissions is preferable than EPA action;
  • ...but it will be hard to pass any sort of market-based approach through Congress.
  • And really, is it necessary to regulate greenhouse gases?

In his State of the Union speech, Obama expressed a willingness to get the Environmental Protection Agency to act on climate change if Congress doesn’t, which Whitfield called “discouraging and disappointing.” But Whitfield also didn’t seem hopeful that Congress would reach a compromise on a market-based solution to greenhouse gas emissions.

“If he’s talking about cap-and-trade, then yeah, I think you’re going to see gridlock because there’s not going to be enough votes to get cap-and-trade through,” he said.

He doesn’t like the idea of cap-and-trade, but Whitfield did acknowledge that he would prefer that Congress find some kind of solution, to keep the EPA from regulating greenhouse gas emissions from existing power plants.

“If they insist on applying greenhouse gas rules to existing plants, they’re really going to have a big battle on their hands,” he said, and mentioned lawsuits.

Whitfield demurred on the subject of climate change, saying he thinks everyone knows the planet is in “a warming period” right now, but he questions how much human activity contributes to it.

“How much further does America need to go unilaterally, and particularly if we’re trying to be competitive in the global marketplace?” Whitfield asked. “And at this particular time in our history when we’re trying to stimulate the economy, how much can our economy take?”

He cited data from the U.S. Energy Information Agency that shows carbon dioxide emissions in the U.S. are at 20-year lows…largely because the market has made burning natural gas more economical than coal.

Platts Energy host Bill Loveless didn’t ask Whitfield about the legislation introduced by Senators Barbara Boxer and Bernie Sanders last week that would take a different sort of market-based approach to carbon emissions. That bill, which many think has no chance in passing the House of Representative, taxes carbon emissions from the country’s biggest polluters and gives a lot of the revenue to taxpayers to supplement energy bills.