Green Dreams on Campus: Rising Tuition, Crippling Debt

As college tuition and student debt soar, schools across the country are pumping billions of dollars annually into so-called “sustainability” initiatives, which include using expensive renewable energy sources to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. But what does sustainability really mean? And does it make sense for colleges to divert so much money and resources to nebulous environmental causes at the expense of scholarships, financial aid, or educational programs?

A new report from the nonprofit National Association of Scholars (NAS) explains the numerous ways campus sustainability harms higher education. The report estimates that American colleges and universities spend more than $3.4 billion per year on sustainability-related programs. In exchange, the report finds that “the sustainability movement distorts college curricula” and has “shut down reasoned debate on campuses by foreclosing open inquiry” on environmental issues.

In reality, students and parents are bearing the high cost of sustainability. As the NAS report shows, colleges are pouring vast sums of money into renewable energy programs that drive up costs, inflate tuition, and have little real impact on the environment. Moreover, the sustainability movement has contributed to the rise of a new movement: one that pressures universities to “divest” their financial holdings in natural gas, oil, and coal companies.

The problem is that these universities would divest not only from these fuels, but from the products made from natural gas, oil, and coal, including life-saving pharmaceuticals, high-tech fabrics, steel, and computers, to name a few. Instead of divesting from the energy and products of modern life, we should divest from the unsustainable cost of sustainability.

The Unsustainable Cost of Campus Sustainability

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, “sustainability creates and maintains the conditions under which humans and nature can exist in productive harmony, that permit fulfilling the social, economic and other requirements of present and future generations.” As EPA explains, “Sustainability is important to making sure that we have and will continue to have, the water, materials, and resources to protect human health and our environment.” That sounds like a worthwhile cause—nobody is against protecting the environment and public health.

In practice, however, sustainability has devolved into an enormous waste of time and resources. One example of this can be found on college campuses. The National Association of Scholars (NAS) released a new report examining the negative effects of campus sustainability programs. The thrust of the report is that colleges are diverting vast resources to sustainability programs even as tuition rates rise, student loan debt soars, and the unemployment rate among college graduates climbs.

First, consider that NAS estimates American colleges and universities spend more than $3.4 billion each year on sustainability programs. That’s enough money to cover tuition for more than 108,866 students to attend private university, or provide in-state tuition for more than 372,031 students. Yet instead of expanding educational access, hundreds of colleges are spending that money promoting expensive renewable energy schemes.

This problem is exacerbated by the fact that the cost of attending college has exploded in recent years. The latest data show tuition and fees at private nonprofit colleges rose 3.7 percent last year, or twice the rate of inflation, to $31,231 per year. Meanwhile, student loan debt is rising to cover higher tuition costs: average debt per student with loans has nearly tripled from $9,450 in 1993 to $29,400 in 2012. Over that time, the percentage of seniors who graduated with loans rose from 47 percent to 71 percent, according to recent data. And finally, 7.5 percent of recent college graduates are unemployed, compared to the national unemployment rate of 5.5 percent.

The NAS report examined Middlebury College as a case study in the high cost of sustainability. In 2006, Middlebury pledged to go “carbon neutral” by 2016. To achieve that goal, NAS estimates the college spends almost $5 million per year, or more than $2,000 per student. The following chart details Middlebury’s annual spending on sustainability programs. More than 42 percent of the total, or about $2.1 million, is spent not on sustainability itself, but on salaries and benefits for the bureaucrats hired to carry out the school’s sustainability efforts.


These annual costs are only part of the story. NAS estimates that Middlebury spent an additional $13.9 million in fixed, one-time costs, including construction of the campus biomass plant. And while Middlebury claims its wood-fed biomass plant saves the college $840,000 per year in fuel oil and $323,709 in operation costs, net costs for Middlebury’s sustainability programs still eclipse $3.7 million annually. It also means it would take the college more than 15 years to pay off its $13.9 million fixed costs, assuming a 5 percent interest rate.

With such a high price tag, students and parents should expect a reasonable return on their investment. Unfortunately, Middlebury’s efforts to combat climate change amount to a drop in the proverbial bucket. Since 2007, the college has reduced carbon dioxide emissions by 27,618 metric tons, or the amount of carbon dioxide 0.007 of an average coal-fired power plant emits in a single year, according to EPA’s greenhouse gas calculator. That means Middlebury spent $543 per metric ton of carbon dioxide reduced, according to NAS. For context, the Obama administration’s official estimate for the value of reducing carbon dioxide is about $39 per metric ton.


As we have explained numerous times, the so-called “social cost of carbon” is a dubious metric that likely inflates the value of CO2 reduction. That means Middlebury paid almost 14 times more than even what the Obama administration claims is the true value of reducing carbon dioxide. In exchange, the college reduced emissions equivalent to less than one hundredth of a single, average coal plant.[1]

This scheme is the opposite of sustainable. It is an enormous waste of money, the costs of which are borne by students and parents. Perhaps more importantly, it is also a waste of time, which is a nonrenewable resource. Every moment dedicated to researching and implementing Middlebury’s “carbon neutral” pledge is time not spent doing what colleges are supposed to do: educate students.

Fossil Fuel Divestment: “Sustainability’s Last Frontier”

Over the last few years, fossil fuel divestment campaigns have cropped up on college campuses across the country. These activists pressure universities to “divest” their financial holdings in natural gas, oil, and coal companies. Though largely unsuccessful, divestment activists have convinced some schools, mostly small liberal arts colleges, to sell off their energy assets.

The NAS report describes divesting from natural gas, oil, and coal stocks as a logical extension of campus sustainability. Indeed, as noted above, Middlebury pays $41,000 per year to Bill McKibben, the godfather of the fossil fuel divestment movement, to serve on staff as a scholar in residence. NAS draws the following parallel between sustainability and divestment:

[Divestment] embodies the ethos that sustainability embraces. The underlying idea is that fossil fuels desecrate the environment, that this desecration is sinful, and that those who would persevere in their reprehensible ways deserve condemnation. The campaign to divest from fossil fuels manifests the fervor of a religious quest for purity and absolution. It declares the public guilty of oil on their hands.

As we explain on our Divestment Truth page, fossil fuel divestment is morally bankrupt for a variety of reasons: taken to its logical conclusion, it would consign billions of people around the world to poverty and darkness; eliminate more than 82 percent of the energy Americans use; deny access to the lifesaving products made from fossil fuels; and make it more difficult for low-income students to attend college.

Sustainability and divestment activists have succeeded in passing the costs of their activism on to parents and students, many of whom may not support their radical causes but nonetheless bankroll these efforts in the form of higher tuition and crippling loans. Natural gas, oil, and coal make modern life possible: they comprise the vast majority of our energy are key feedstock for many every day products, including pharmaceuticals and medical devices. True sustainability is embracing the notion that energy makes life better. If we should divest from anything, let’s start with the unsustainable costs of campus sustainability.

[1] The Environmental Protection Agency calculated carbon dioxide emissions per power plant by dividing the total emissions from coal-fired power plants by the total number of power plants. See


It’s Time To Reclaim The Planet From Environmentalists

Last week, AEA’s Dan Ziegler penned an op-ed discussing the need for free-market advocates to reframe the global discussion about our environment. The text of the piece follows:

We don’t have to wreck our economy to save the planet.

The national environmental lobby has never been stronger. The federal government, led by President Obama and an army of bureaucrats at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), is radically transforming how Americans use and consume energy. Meanwhile, well-funded environmental groups have convinced a clear majority of the country that the environment is only in fair or poor condition. As a result, Americans are increasingly willing to accept government regulations, subsidies, and mandates that make energy more expensive and diminish their quality of life.

Here’s the catch: The national environmental lobby’s doom-and-gloom narrative is false.

The environment isn’t getting worse—it’s rapidly improving, even as our economy grows and our energy use increases. The EPA recently released new data on air quality showing that total emissions of the six major air pollutants have dropped by 68 percent since 1970. This is all the more impressive considering that during this same period, America’s population has grown by 54 percent, we’re using 44 percent more energy, we’re driving 168 percent more miles in our cars, and our economy has grown by 238 percent.

It goes from impressive to astounding when you consider that natural gas, coal, and oil have driven this growth. Technological innovations have made obtaining these energy sources smarter, safer, and more efficient than ever before.

In other words, we don’t have to wreck our economy to save the planet—an important realization which casts the green lobby’s preferred policies in a new light. There’s also the very real possibility that such policies would provide very little environmental benefit and even harm the environment.

Environmentalists Hurt the Planet

Several of President Obama’s climate policies will do exactly that. The most important example is the EPA’s sweeping new regulations for power plants. These regulations attempt to reduce carbon dioxide by 30 percent by the year 2030, which could shutter enough power plants to provide electricity to 80 million Americans while raising electricity rates.

The administration’s policies will merely move the energy industry to countries with weaker environmental standards. By curtailing energy production and use in the United States, along with the jobs they support, the administration’s policies will merely move this industry to countries with weaker environmental standards, including China and India. Less stringent standards in these countries are already causing pollution from China to cross the Pacific Ocean, negatively affecting the West Coast. The administration’s environmental agenda would worsen these problems.

Sadly, the EPA pending regulations aren’t the only examples of government pursuing policies in the name of environmental protection that actually hinder environmental progress.

President Obama’s failure to approve the Keystone XL Pipeline is another. It means that more oil will be transported by rail and barge, both of which have higher spill rates and produce more greenhouse gas emissions than pipelines. Ethanol mandates at the federal and state level actually increase smog and greenhouse-gas emissions. Despite its name, the Endangered Species Act has failed to save many species—in fact, environmental activists who sue the federal government in the name of protecting endangered species actually divert resources away from species recovery.

Even the cash for clunkers program hurt the environment. Among its numerous unintended consequences, it focused on shredding the cars instead of recycling them, wasting resources that could have been used for other purposes.

This points to a simple conclusion: Across the board, the federal government has proven to be an inept and even counterproductive environmental steward.

How People Are Saving the Planet

So where should we look to for good environmental stewardship? Perhaps outside of Washington is a good place to start. Individuals and entrepreneurs, through private-sector innovation, have proven effective at improving the environment—and our lives.

American businesses and families are leading the charge to address environmental challenges. We can see this all around us. Commercial drone developers are working to equip farmers with drones that can fly over fields to better spot diseases and pests. That could soon allow farmers to target and treat smaller areas of land, resulting in less insecticide use while saving farmers money.

Private-sector innovation has also made accessing natural gas and oil more environmentally friendly. For example, directional drilling allows companies to drill multiple wells from a single well pad, minimizing overall surface disturbance while extracting more energy.

Businesses aren’t the only ones innovating. Individuals are also a driving force, making us more energy efficient than ever. Products like the Nest thermostat allow us to adjust the heating and cooling of our homes from our mobile phones. Apps like FuelGood calculate the potential savings of more efficient fuel usage, claiming that users can save up to two months’ worth of fuel per year. The Property and Environment Research Center (PERC) in Montana has started an Enviropreneur Institute to highlight individuals who are using innovation and market principles to save businesses money and improve environmental outcomes.

These examples only scratch the surface of the innovation boom that’s facilitating America’s environmental progress. And consumers and businesses are embracing these tools and tactics without government mandates.

Free-market advocates must do a better job telling this story. Despite government failures at environmental stewardship, the environment is still better than it has been in generations. That trend will continue: American businesses and families are leading the charge to address environmental challenges, and innovators across the country are devising new and ingenious ways for individuals and entrepreneurs to use energy more efficiently. For the sake of the environment, it’s time for free-market advocates to retake the moral high ground from the national environmental lobby.

Dan Ziegler is the vice president of strategic initiatives at the American Energy Alliance.

Solar Freeloader

Solar Loaf 600 AEA

WSJ Op-Ed: Time to Repeal the RFS

Today, American Energy Alliance President Thomas Pyle penned an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal on the Renewable Fuel Standard. In the piece, Pyle makes the case for repealing this broken and misguided policy. Below is the text from the op-ed:

At the Iowa Agriculture Summit earlier this month, most of the prospective Republican presidential candidates embraced the renewable-fuel standard, one of the worst examples of corporate welfare in America. This federal mandate props up the U.S. ethanol industry by forcing refiners to blend biofuels into gasoline. Despite the fact that it is an obvious business handout, White House hopefuls rarely attack the standard, lest they harm their chances of winning the Iowa caucuses.

Yet there’s a promising shift under way. A bipartisan group of legislators in Washington, D.C., including Sens. Pat Toomey (R., Pa.) and Dianne Feinstein (D., Calif.), recently introduced a bill to repeal the corn-ethanol portion of the RFS. The approach of Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R., Va.) is better: He has introduced legislation that would repeal the RFS outright. Neither proposal will be enacted, but they reflect a growing consensus that the RFS isn’t working.

When Congress enacted the RFS in 2005, its backers argued it would combat America’s dependence on foreign oil. Today, thanks to huge increases in domestic oil production, the U.S. is significantly more energy independent. In 2005, domestic oil accounted for 40% of total U.S. oil consumption. Now it constitutes three-quarters.

Unfortunately, the mandate has created a number of new problems thanks to its exceptionally poor design. The standard requires refiners to blend volumes—rather than percentages—of biofuels into gasoline based on fuel supplies and the EPA’s annual targets. So when gasoline consumption drops, refiners must increase the percentage of biofuels in the blend.

This is happening now: Gasoline consumption peaked in 2007 and has since dropped 6%. At today’s reduced consumption levels, complying with the renewable-fuel standard would require blending gasoline that contains more than 10% ethanol. That is higher than most cars are certified to use, according to AAA, and it would wreck lawn mowers, weed eaters, boats and motorcycles. The only reprieve has been bureaucratic ineptness at the EPA, which has failed to enforce the mandate and set thresholds for two years in a row.

At the same time, the RFS increases fuel prices. According to a 2014 report by the Congressional Budget Office, the mandate could raise gasoline prices by up to 27 cents between now and 2017. Moreover, ethanol is less energy dense than gasoline, which means that fuel economy drops—and drivers must fill up the tank more often—as ethanol content rises.

The renewable-fuel standard also makes it harder for families to put food on the table. Thanks to the mandate, a large and growing percentage of corn, soybeans and other crops is now used in biofuels production rather than for human consumption. Consider corn: In 2005, 15% of the nation’s corn harvest was used for fuel; today it is 40%. This makes corn more expensive. A 2012 study by PricewaterhouseCoopers found that the RFS raises costs for chain restaurants by $3.2 billion a year. Those costs are passed on to families in higher prices.

Even the national environmental lobby is now expressing concerns. The World Resources Institute recently found that a gallon of ethanol—throughout its journey from stalk to pipe—emits more carbon dioxide than oil, which “undercuts efforts to combat climate change.” Another new report from the University of Michigan’s Energy Institute reaches a similar conclusion. Researchers reviewed more than 100 papers on the environmental impact of biofuels and found that ethanol offers “no significant increase in the amount of carbon dioxide being removed from the atmosphere.” The conclusion: “Therefore, there’s no climate benefit.”

The only real winners are the ethanol producers, who have found a guaranteed source of income. From 2007 to 2013, the corn-ethanol industry spent $158 million lobbying the federal government on subsidies, tax credits and mandates, including the renewable-fuel standard, according to an analysis of public filings by Taxpayers for Common Sense. This is on top of $6 million in campaign contributions to federal candidates between 2008 and 2014. That money isn’t being spent to help corn and soybean farmers in rural America, but rather to secure government handouts.

These special-interest groups are, once again, planning to leverage the outsize influence of the Iowa presidential caucuses to pressure 2016 hopefuls into supporting the RFS. In January, Iowa Renewable Fuels Association Executive Director Monte Shaw promised a multimillion-dollar ethanol lobbying campaign that is “probably going to be the most aggressive issue advocacy effort people have ever seen in the history of the Iowa caucuses.” Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas) is the only prospective candidate to unequivocally oppose the standard.

The renewable-fuel standard is a corporate giveaway that makes food and fuel more expensive for American families. If presidential candidates won’t vow to repeal it, then it is incumbent upon Congress to tear it out by its roots.

Mr. Pyle is the president of the American Energy Alliance.

AEA Supports Effort to Slam the Door on a Federal Carbon Tax

WASHINGTON — Today, the American Energy Alliance issued a key-vote alert for amendment #350 to the Senate’s 2016 budget resolution. The amendment, introduced by Senator Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), would issue a point of order against any legislative proposal to tax carbon dioxide.

“Senator Blunt’s amendment is a commendable effort to finally slam the door on a federal carbon tax,” said AEA President Thomas Pyle.

“Modern life depends on affordable and reliable energy. A carbon tax would raise energy costs on all American families, disproportionately impacting the poor and those on fixed incomes. The American people recognize these dangers and will hold their lawmakers accountable for supporting a carbon tax, as former Sens. Mark Begich and Kay Hagan learned the hard way.”

AEA supports Senator Blunt’s amendment and will include it in our American Energy Scorecard. Below is the text of the key-vote alert:

This week, the Senate will vote on amendment #350 by Senator Blunt to concurrent resolution S. Con. Res. 11, the fiscal year 2016 budget. The amendment would issue a point of order against any legislative proposal to tax carbon dioxide, thus making it more difficult for Congress to impose a costly and harmful carbon tax on the American people.

A carbon tax would have a disastrous economic impact on American families. For instance, a $25 per ton tax that rises 5 percent each year, as some lawmakers have proposed, would reduce the income of a family of four by $1,900 per year and raise that family’s energy costs by $500 per year (not even counting gasoline), according to the Heritage Foundation. It would also raise gasoline prices by up to 50 cents per gallon, negating many of the economic gains offered by affordable gasoline.

Taxing carbon dioxide would also surely destroy jobs and slow economic growth. An analysis by the National Association of Manufacturers found that a carbon tax could result in lost worker income equivalent to 21 million jobs by 2053. Manufacturing production could decline by as much as 15 percent in energy-intensive sectors, according to NAM. These losses would come as many families are still struggling to recover from the economic recession.

Some proponents suggest implementing a carbon tax while reducing other taxes elsewhere—Congress shouldn’t be fooled. Such efforts to make a carbon tax “revenue neutral” are not realistic and run counter to the stated goals of most carbon tax advocates, who prefer to use the revenues to increase spending, not lower taxes.

Taxing carbon dioxide amounts to a tax on modern life. Nearly everything we do depends on energy sources that emit carbon dioxide. Moreover, a carbon tax would have a disproportionate impact low-income families, who spend a higher share of their income on energy costs. Australians learned this lesson the hard way, scrapping their failed carbon tax experiment last year. Congress would do well to learn from their mistakes.

The American Energy Alliance supports this amendment and will include it in our American Energy Scorecard. YES IS THE PRO-ENERGY, PRO-WORKER, AND PRO-HUMAN FLOURISHING VOTE.

Click here to view the key-vote alert.

Click here to view the American Energy Scorecard.


A Corny Way to Go

Corny 600 AEA

We think Jay Leno said it best:

As someone who collects old cars, and keeps them up religiously, I am now replacing fuel-pressure regulators every 12 to 18 months. New cars are equipped with fuel lines that are resistant to ethanol damage, but with older cars, the worst can happen—you’re going down the road, and suddenly your car is on fire.


Ethanol will absorb water from ambient air. In a modern vehicle, with a sealed fuel system, ethanol fuel has a harder time picking up water from the air. But in a vintage car, the water content of fuel can rise, causing corrosion and inhibiting combustion.

It gets worse. Ethanol is a solvent that can loosen the sludge, varnish and dirt that accumulate in a fuel tank. That mixture can clog fuel lines and block carburetor jets.

Blame the Renewable Fuel Standard.

It’s time to End the RFS.

Coalition Urges Congress to Repeal the RFS

WASHINGTON — The American Energy Alliance joined today with 16 other organizations in opposition to the Renewable Fuel Standard. In a letter to the House of Representatives, the coalition urges Members to co-sponsor H.R. 703, a bill introduced by Rep. Bob Goodlatte to repeal the Renewable Fuel Standard. Below is an excerpt from the letter:

We, the undersigned, write to urge you to co-sponsor H.R. 703, a bill introduced by Representative Goodlatte to repeal the Renewable Fuel Standard. This legislation deserves your full support. We, collectively and individually, continue to believe the best reform to this failed government mandate should be to repeal it. Repealing this mandate would bring certainty to the fuel markets and eliminate the harmful impacts this government program has had on businesses and consumers.

The RFS harms almost all sectors of the economy and saddles American taxpayers with higher fuel costs and higher food prices. Apart from increased food prices – which have been confirmed by both the United States Department of Agriculture and the World Bank – the RFS increased the costs of gasoline and diesel. A recent Congressional Budget Office report concluded that complying with the mandated volume levels would increase the price of diesel by 30 to 51 cents per gallon and regular gasoline by 13 to 26 cents by 2017.

We also want to express our concern over efforts to reform the RFS that fall short of complete repeal. Representative Goodlatte has also introduced H.R. 704, a bill that would primarily tackle the corn ethanol portion of the mandate. Legislation that would simply address the corn-based portion of the mandate is commendable, but it is a half-answer. A repeal of the corn-based ethanol mandate that leaves the other three mandates that exist in the statute – biodiesel, cellulosic, and advanced biofuels – in place would simply result in the substitution of other alternative fuels for the current reliance on corn-based ethanol.

The coalition letter will remain open for additional signers.

Click here to read the full coalition letter.



EPA’s WOTUS Rule “Insults Property Owners”

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy delivered a speech at the National Farmers Union this week in which she tried to assuage doubts over a proposed rule to greatly expand the agency’s authority to regulate waters covered under the Clean Water Act. The proposal, known as “Waters of the United States,” has drawn the ire of farmers, ranchers, property owners, and local governments, who fear the vague language contained in EPA’s rule could result in the regulation of “puddles, ponds, ditches” and even land that is only wet when it rains.

The Heritage Foundation’s Daren Bakst explains how McCarthy’s speech “insults property owners” by downplaying the far-reaching implications of EPA’s proposal:

Under the proposed rule, the EPA and Corps would deem nearly any type of water to be jurisdictional [meaning regulated by EPA]. For example, the new proposed rule would regulate all ditches, except in narrow circumstances. The rule would apply to tributaries that have ephemeral flow and depressions in land that contain water only when it rains. Further, the rule is so vague that property owners probably should assume a water body is covered under the law, unless it falls under one of the limited exceptions in the rule.

This overreach means that property owners will be required to secure far more permits than ever before. McCarthy makes it sound as if this isn’t a big deal because, after all, according to her, these individuals and businesses just want to pollute. Even the connotation of pollute is misleading because it suggests, for example, some business dumping toxic waste in a pristine water. Her statement is both misleading and insulting.

The Waters of the United States rule is just one more example of overreach from the federal government. To read Mr. Bakst’s full piece, click here.

USA Today Tears Into Flawed RFS

The barrage of criticism targeting the Renewable Fuel Standard is showing no signs of stopping. Just last week, the The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal took aim at the costly and flawed federal biofuel mandate.

Now, on the heels of the recent Iowa Ag Summit, where numerous prominent Republican presidential candidates kowtowed to the powerful ethanol lobby, USA Today has weighed in on the government’s ethanol directive. Their take? End the ethanol mandate. Here’s an excerpt from the piece:

The RFS, which requires retailers to sell a 10% ethanol blend or pay into a convoluted subsidy system, imposes major burdens on consumers. A gallon of ethanol is more expensive than a gallon of gasoline ($2.43 vs. $1.73 wholesale) and gets only about two-thirds the mileage.

This forces motorists to pay $10 billion a year more at the pump, according to Robert Bryce of the Manhattan Institute. That’s more than a quarter of the $38 billion raised by the federal gasoline tax. Then consumers get hit a second time at the supermarket, where rising corn prices drive up the cost of everything from beef to cereal.

Meanwhile, the argument that energy security demands a home-grown, “renewable” fuel is no longer viable thanks to new oil and gas drilling techniques and advances in wind and solar. In fact, the ethanol makers who once wrapped themselves in the flag are now shipping their product overseas.

Another rational — ethanol’s status as a “clean” fuel — was always a farce. While a gallon of ethanol emits fewer greenhouse gases than a gallon of gasoline, it is far dirtier after accounting for the energy used to till and fertilize the land used to produce it.

If these weren’t enough reasons to revisit the mandate, consider this: Fuel use has been dropping thanks to more efficient cars and other factors. That has made it hard to unload mandated ethanol quotas without going above a 10% blend, something Detroit says its cars can’t handle.

The solution is obvious: Just end the mandate — notwithstanding the kowtowing of politicians traipsing through Iowa.

You can read the rest of USA Today’s editorial here.

Former Obama Law Professor Eviscerates EPA

Laurence Tribe is a Harvard Law Professor who has described President Obama as “the best student I ever had” and donated to his political campaigns. It might come as a surprise, then, to learn that Professor Tribe also believes the foundation of the Obama administration’s anti-coal agenda is unconstitutional.

Testifying before Congress this week, Tribe condemned the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed carbon dioxide rule for existing power plants as a “constitutionally reckless mission” and a “power grab.” In written testimony, Tribe explains how the EPA’s proposal “offends democratic principles” in favor of regulatory fiat:

EPA’s plan represents an unprecedented attempt to change how electricity is generated, transmitted, and consumed throughout the United States…EPA’s plan will force States to adopt policies that will raise energy costs and prove deeply unpopular, while cloaking those policies in the Emperor’s garb of state “choice” – even though in fact the polices are compelled by EPA. Such sleight-of-hand offends democratic principles by avoiding political transparency and accountability.

Tribe’s oral testimony was even more pointed. He said EPA’s plan would make states “marionettes dancing to the tune of a federal puppeteer.” Tribe believes EPA’s plan runs afoul of the Fifth and Tenth Amendments and the Clean Air Act.

Tribe’s testimony echoes earlier comments submitted to EPA. In those comments, Tribe describes the proposed rule as “remarkable example of executive overreach” and called on EPA to withdraw the rule. As Tribe explains, EPA is misinterpreting a key section of the Clean Air Act to seize authority it does not have under the law.

Essentially, Tribe explains EPA does not have the authority to regulate power plants under both Section 112 and 111(d) of the Clean Air Act—the agency must choose one, and it’s already regulating mercury emissions under Section 112. Thus, EPA’s proposal to also regulate carbon dioxide emissions from those same power plants under Section 111(d) would violate the Clean Air Act. Even if EPA’s proposal didn’t violate the Clean Air Act, Tribe contends the courts will invalidate the rule on constitutional grounds.

Tribe concludes his written testimony:

EPA is attempting an unconstitutional trifecta: usurping the prerogatives of the States, Congress and the Federal Courts – all at once. Burning the Constitution should not become part of our national energy policy.

Click here to read Tribe’s full testimony.