Is Barack Obama Doing Pretend Environmentalism?

I pointed out yesterday that Barack Obama is siding with one industry over another in his new EPA proposals. However, it is possible that all of this is fakery.

Think about it. Despite the environmentalist accusations against fracking, Obama claimed natural gas as a clean source of energy along with all the others. Unlike solar energy and wind farms, natural gas is a truly competitive form of energy. It is already being used to meet energy needs, and really has no need for subsidies or other help from the government.

So here is the point: natural gas is already replacing coal due to pure market preferences. So it might well be possible that natural gas would continue to replace coal even without Obama’s EPA regulations.

But notice how Obama has positioned his proposals.  The EPA regulations could be completely ineffective and yet, due to natural changes in the marketplace, natural gas still might win out over coal. And then the EPA can claim credit for the change.

At least one commentator suggests it is quite likely that Barack Obama’s proposals will be ineffective. Megan McArdle points out:

As with any new Environmental Protection Agency rule, a lengthy comment period will ensue. After the comment period, the EPA presumably has discretion about the deadlines they set. With a big election coming in 2016, and some nice, big, coal-consuming swing states on the line, I would wager cash money that those deadlines are set no earlier than Dec. 31, 2016.

Whenever the deadlines do kick in, the new president will be besieged with desperate legislators and governors pleading to keep electricity prices from rising in these hard economic times. I can imagine a steadfast Democratic president standing up for the environment against utility lobbyists, coal-mining districts and electricity users, telling them that we need to do what’s best for the planet, not some narrow economic interest. But I can also imagine a beautiful world where everyone rides around in carriages driven by unicorns, angels sing in the trees, and purple raspberry pie grows on bushes outside your backdoor.

So this may be one area where Obama is taking action simply to look good to his constituents without any real intent to pay the price for drastic limits on coal power.