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TheStreet Open House

Morici: Obama's Climate Action Masks Hidden Agenda

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- President Obama's Climate Action Plan won't do much to curb global warming, but it will please liberals who delight in extending government control over large segments of the economy.

The president argues the overwhelming majority of scientists, including some early skeptics, agree the planet is warming and greenhouse gas emissions are the primary culprit. As CO2 composes 80% of those gases, Obama targets coal-fired electric utilities and opportunities to reduce fuel use in heavy transportation.

The president proposes reducing U.S. emissions by 17% from 2005 levels through strict EPA regulation and oversight when the market forces are already accomplishing that goal without imposing a command and control regime.

In 2011, the last year data is available, U.S. greenhouse gas emissions were already down 8.5% from 2005. Simply, responding to changing consumer preferences, Detroit started making more fuel efficient vehicles even before the president started phasing in tougher mileage standards in 2012. Recently, more abundant and cheaper natural gas inspired electric utilities to start switching out of coal where most cost effective.

If current trends continue, as is likely, these market driven adjustments in U.S. energy use will take U.S. greenhouse gases well below the president's target by 2020 without needless and costly government intervention.

If left alone, the power sector in the Midwest, for example, will continue to phase out coal in most cost efficient ways -- by strategically replacing it with natural gas, and purchasing nuclear, hydro and other renewal power from other parts of the country. This will keep down electric utility rates.

Instead, the president will micro-manage the process by imposing strict and inflexible requirements on each electric utility similar to corporate fuel economy standards now imposed on car and light truck manufacturers. This will limit flexibility, result in the overuse of natural gas and unnecessarily raise both natural gas and electricity prices to manufacturers, other commercial users and homeowners.

Similarly, competition from rail, complemented by short-haul light trucks, already imposes pressures on long-haul trucking companies and heavy truck manufactures to conserve fuel in the most cost effective ways. But the president's program will micro manage their efforts out of the EPA, and raise the cost of moving goods around the country without cutting CO2 emissions very much.

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