Guest column/A misguided energy policy

As treasurer of state, I wake up in the morning thinking about the economic well-being of Ohio’s families and Ohio’s finances. Accordingly, I am writing to bring attention to an issue that is impacting Ohioans in a variety of ways.

Ohioans should brace themselves for potential higher energy costs and job losses if we can’t stop the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency from taking its campaign against Ohio energy production and jobs to the next level.

The EPA intends to implement new greenhouse gas emission rules that would force existing coal plants out of operation. This comes on the heels of a recent prohibition of the construction of new coal-fired power plants through regulatory fiat.

The thought of limiting Ohio’s energy options is particularly inexplicable when you consider the critical role coal played in supplying additional power to meet demand as a result of this past winter’s brutal sub-zero temperatures.

During the bitterly cold weeks of early 2014, companies that supply much of our power here in Ohio relied heavily on coal-burning generators to meet the additional consumer demand for electricity. As in other regions, abundant and affordable coal enabled power generation at a lower cost for residents.

Moreover, even with coal stepping in to meet peak demand during the freezing winter, some federal regulators expressed concern over the state of our nation’s electric grid, with one going so far as to say that it was “close to the edge” of breaking.

But these new EPA regulations against coal won’t just be felt during extreme weather, they will affect consumers 365 days a year. Removing coal from our nation’s generating mix will drive up the prices that consumers pay for power from coast to coast.

The simple fact is that coal is an asset for our state that creates jobs and helps keep the lights on for hardworking families and small businesses. These new regulations take a heavy-handed approach that threatens to remove affordable and reliable coal-fired electricity from our nation’s energy grid. Our economic recovery is in large part dependent upon access to affordable energy for our citizens and small businesses.

Middle- and lower-income American households will suffer as their power bills skyrocket. Retirees and others on fixed incomes will shell out a greater share of those limited funds to keep the house warm in winter and cool in summer, or even face tough decisions over whether to buy groceries or pay the utility bill.

In addition to pummeling family budgets, states like Ohio that have long relied on low-cost, coal-fired electricity to attract jobs and investment will now be put at a competitive disadvantage. This will be particularly true in energy-intensive industries like manufacturing, where power prices represent a significant cost for employers.

Jobs will be lost as a result – in many cases to nations such as China and India, where electricity from coal still is seen as essential to fostering economic growth and prosperity.

Washington bureaucrats are leading us toward another economic cliff. We must demand a more sensible energy policy from Washington, and put a stop to the war on coal.

(Mandel is Ohio’s state treasurer.)