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June 25 2015

Of Course Cost Matters

Carrie L. Lukas

Americans are waiting for several big Supreme Court rulings.  Few are focused on the case relating to power-plant emissions, but it will have big implications for our economy and ultimately all of us. 

The Wall Street Journal summarizes what’s at stake:

Utility Air Regulatory Group v. EPA et. al.  Issue: Whether the EPA unreasonably disregarded costs when it decided to regulate power plant emissions of mercury and other air toxics. The regulations would cost $9.6 billion annually, according to EPA estimates. But the agency said it was appropriate to consider only public health risks—not industry costs—when it decided to regulate coal- and oil-fired generation plants.

I’m sure there is plenty of fine print that will influence exactly how this case comes out and the implications of the Supreme Court ruling, but Americans ought to universally embrace the principle that costs have to matter when it comes to judging regulations.  Some are tempted to discount economic costs because it’s only money.  But money matters.  And when industries are hit with new costs, they pass those costs onto consumers.

As Charlotte recently wrote about a new study showing how much basic energy costs impact American families, particularly those with lower incomes:

American families with a pre-tax income of under $50,000 now spend an estimated average of 17 percent of their post-tax income on residential energy and transportation energy, while the breakdown for families earning $30,000 in pre-tax income is 23 percent of their income on energy, before accounting for any subsidies.

How much of the thousands of dollars these low-income families are spending on energy costs are actually due to unnecessary regulation?  What would they be doing with that money if they had it to keep, rather than lost it to red tape? 

Higher income levels are associated with all sorts of positive outcomes—better health, better education, more happiness and well-being.  This doesn’t mean that we should ignore the need for sensible regulations that mitigate true risks, but cost must be a consideration too when we are deciding what policies make sense for the American people. 

Independent Women’s Forum’s mission is to improve the lives of Americans by increasing the number of women who value free markets and personal liberty. Sister organization of Independent Women’s Voice.
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