EPA And The Electricity Cost Crisis

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By Francis Menton

Over in Europe, the energy cost crisis, particularly as to electricity, proceeds apace.

Germany, deep into its Energiewende (energy transition) that began in 2010, leads the way. Almost all coal and nuclear power plants have been closed in favor of a massive building plan for wind and solar facilities.

After a decade of that, for the past couple of years, Germans have suffered consumer retail electricity prices of over 30 euro cents per kWh — close to triple average U.S. consumer rates.

On November 25, a German news source called The Local (behind pay wall) quoted an energy market expert named Mirko Scholssarczyk for the proposition that “40 cents per kilowatt-hour was likely to be the new normal in 2023 and 2024, and that prices could even rise to 50 cents per kilowatt-hour after that.”

Meanwhile, my own post from December 24 cited data from a Belgian think tank called Brueghel showing that Germany was in the process of spending some 260 billion euros, around an astonishing 7% of GDP, to subsidize consumers to keep their electricity bills from going beyond even these ridiculously high levels.

The UK, second after Germany in its rush to what they call “Net Zero,” has its own associated energy cost crisis.

The basic policy prescription is the same as in Germany — massive building of wind and solar facilities and suppression of fossil fuels.

Although consumer bills are capped by regulation, they went in October to a level approximately three times where they had been a year previously; and they were set to rise again in April, to some five times the previous level, although that may now be temporarily headed off by the UK’s own round of massive taxpayer handouts in the range of a hundred billion pounds or more.

Can we here in the USA learn anything from this folly before it is too late? The answer is, if it is up to our EPA, then no.

Readers may be interested in some back and forth on this topic that has recently occurred in the briefing in the case of Concerned Household Electricity Consumers Council v. EPA, pending in the Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit.

CHECC is demanding that EPA reconsider the so-called Endangerment Finding of 2009, which is the bureaucratic edict by which those geniuses claimed to determine that CO2 and certain other “greenhouse gases” constitute a “danger” to human health and safety.

The Endangerment Finding is the regulatory linchpin that underlies all U.S. government efforts to suppress fossil fuel infrastructure, whether power plants, pipelines, drilling, or anything else. You may recall that I am one of the lawyers for CHECC in this matter.

One of the things that you need to show to bring one of these cases is that the party you represent has what they call “standing.” That means that the party bringing the claim has or will suffer some concrete injury from the regulatory action in question. That’s why our client is a council consisting of electricity consumers. As we state in our Petition and in our Brief, “Each of CHECC’s members is a U.S. citizen and a member of a household that pays electricity bills.”

To demonstrate the effect on consumer electricity bills of the policy mix of wind and solar expansion plus fossil fuel suppression, we cite and describe the experience of Germany. Excerpt, from page 31 of the Brief:

In Europe, Germany began converting to renewables in 2010, and by 2015 30% of its electricity was from wind and solar. . . . The average German household’s electricity rate in 2021 was 32.16 cents per kWh, about triple the average U.S. rate. . . .

So what’s the answer to that, EPA? EPA filed its responsive Brief on December 20. From pages 20-21 of that Brief:

Petitioners’ extended discussion of electricity costs in Germany — involving a different country, market, currency, and regulatory regime — does not aid their efforts [to demonstrate standing]. . . . There is no effort to show that Petitioners or their members suffer “injury-in-fact” from electricity rates in Germany, or that any U.S. regulation (let alone the 2009 Finding or Denial) affected those rates.

That’s it. Hey, it’s a “different country”!

Electricity prices in Germany don’t hurt you. Thus, says EPA, nobody has “standing” to challenge our Endangerment Finding.

I guess there’s just no way of knowing whether the hundreds of billions of dollars worth of damage being wreaked in Germany have anything to do with the forced energy transition.

Anyway, it’s none of EPA’s business to try to figure that out. They are way too busy saving the planet.

Could the DC Circuit — supposedly one of our premier courts — fall for something this blindly ignorant?

We shall see. Of note is that the “standing” question can be an easy way for a court to get rid of a tricky case without having to do the hard work of grappling with the merits.