Obama Administration Energy Policies Destroying Middle Class

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Image Credit:  Shutterstock

EPA head Gina McCarthy claims the Obama administration is not engaged in a “war on coal.” Nevertheless, the mounting evidence is fairly conclusive: Not only is there a war on coal, but the Obama administration is winning . . . and the collateral damage includes middle and working-class families throughout the country.

brutal story last week in the Washington Post (of all publications) introduced readers to victims of federal and state policies that have shuttered coal burning power plants:

Sharon Garcia is stumbling around her dining room in the dark, trying to find Post-It notes.

As she has for years, Garcia wants to affix the notes, marked with dollar signs, to light switches all around her house. The message to her five kids: Light is expensive.

“Why do you need to turn the lights off?” she asks her son, Mariano.

“Because otherwise there’s no money,” he answers, dutifully.

“And when there’s no money?”

“You can’t feed us or take us anywhere.”

Bingo, again.

Remember when Barack Obama said under his plans, “electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket?”

It’s not hard to figure out: When the cost of electricity rises, people with the fewest financial resources are hurt the most. It gets worse. As the Center for Individual Freedom’s Timothy Lee observes, policies designed to promote energy alternatives – through subsidies – are really available only to the already-well off, who in turn place still more burdens on their less-wealthy neighbors:

Favored homeowners exploit a generous 30% federal tax credit and other bureaucratic incentives to install rooftop solar systems.  Afterward, utility companies must then repurchase the excess power generated by the solar panels at full retail price under a policy known as “net metering.” That, in turn, allows rooftop solar users to enjoy the benefits of traditional electrical generation, and the grid that distributes electricity, without contributing to the broader costs associated with keeping the lights on, so to speak.  Meanwhile, consumers without solar remain on the hook for the maintenance of the electrical grid.

There’s an ugly irony that seems to have escaped most liberals who advocate that system of subsidies.  Namely, most consumers remain unable to exploit the system of handouts because they can’t afford solar in the first place.  Accordingly, liberals have created a government subsidy in which middle-income and lower-income consumers end up subsidizing wealthier homeowners.  How’s that for class warfare?

As one representative from the NAACP (of all organizations) wrote recently:

Right now, the race to a cleaner energy future is playing out like a bad game of dodgeball, with communities of color on the losing side.

This is primarily due to an old rule called net metering, which allows rooftop solar owners to skirt the costs of paying for the electricity grid. Nine times out of 10, these homeowners are wealthier individuals — the only ones who can afford to put a high-priced rooftop solar system on their home.

Rooftop solar panels can’t go on top of community housing or apartments. So the poor and less affluent are hit with the cost of paying for the grid and solar systems for homeowners. And these are considerable added costs to electricity bills — in California, it’s been documented that costs passed along to consumers through net metering amount to a staggering $1.1 billion.

What happens if you work in coal, you’re a miner or you sell or distribute domestic coal to energy producers?  Well, you might be out of luck, too. That because restrictive environmental rules make Russian coal cheaper and easier to burn than our own coal.

What’s a hardworking ratepayer to do?  Register your dissatisfaction with the EPA?  That’s actually harder to do these days than crossing the U.S. border from Mexico. Note the sidebar alert in this notice of a public hearing from the EPA. Because most of these hearings will be held in federal buildings, many citizens will be required to show two forms of identification to enter the “public” hearings.

Sen. Mitch McConnell fired back at the EPA’s McCarthy, calling foul on this sudden moving of the goalposts [pdf]:

I am informed that my constituents face another burden should they have the resources to travel [to the EPA hearings]. I am referring to the fact that they must show two forms of identification (IDs) upon entry into the federal buildings where these hearings are set to take place. Secondary IDs are often not commonplace and may be costly and difficult to obtain.

Imagine the outcry if voters were required to show two forms of ID.

Gina McCarthy insists there’s no “war on coal.” She may be right. The Obama administration’s energy policies are looking more like a “war on the middle class.”