How much is a vote worth? Tennesseans now know the answer since Sen. Lamar Alexander traded his vote in defense of the wrongheaded, ridiculous Utility MACT regulation in return for $200,000 in ads courtesy of an alarmist environmental outfit.
Alexander's support for keeping the MACT -- or Mercury and Air Toxics Standards -- regulation in place left many in Washington, D.C. and Tennessee scratching their heads. After all, the MACT regulation is considered the cornerstone of President Obama's War on Coal. The scheme will shutter coal plants across the United States and reduce America's coal energy supply by roughly a third. MACT increases America's reliance on foreign oil and will cause electricity prices to soar, while doing almost nothing to improve the environment.
The supposed goal of the MACT regulation is to reduce the amount of mercury in the air. Every power plant in America combined, however, accounts for just half of one percent of all mercury in the air we breathe. The coal-powered plants targeted by MACT represent just a fraction of that tiny number.
That miniscule reduction in mercury comes at a colossal cost. The EPA's own -- likely lowball -- estimates figure that the MACT standards will cost more than $10 billion per year. Tennesseans will see a 13.5 percent jump in electricity prices as a result of the regulation, according to a report from the American Legislative Exchange Council.
Late last month, the Senate had the opportunity to kill this price-hiking, job-killing legislation. However, a vote to overturn the MACT regulation failed -- just barely. One of the deciding votes was Alexander, who was one of only five Republicans who voted to uphold the economically destructive policy. In fact, five Democrats voted to overturn the scheme.
So why would Alexander turn on Tennesseans and buck logic to support keeping a rule in place that does almost nothing to improve air quality or health, while killing jobs, making energy more scarce and increasing electric bills? The answer came last week when the Environmental Defense Fund announced it was launching a $200,000 ad campaign to thank Alexander for his vote in support of MACT.
If the environmental extremist group sounds familiar, it should. The Environmental Defense Fund is the organization most responsible for banning DDT on the grounds that it reduced the thickness of bird eggs. Without DDT to kill mosquitos that carry malaria, an estimated 50 million people have died from the disease. The Environmental Defense Fund's efforts to ban DDT is now widely considered among the worst public policy failures in human history.
The Environmental Defense Fund also managed to slow attempts by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to reinforce levees in New Orleans prior to Hurricane Katrina by protests and dubious attempts to tie the project up in court. Oops.
It's revolting to think that Tennessee's senior senator would put the wishes of the wackos at the Environmental Defense Fund before the needs of Tennesseans, but apparently that's what happens when an organization is willing to spend $200,000 patting him on the back.
In 2008, while on the campaign trail, Barack Obama admitted that under his energy plan, "electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket" as a result of the regulations he planned to slap on fossil fuels. Obama continued, "if somebody wants to build a coal plant, they can -- it's just that it will bankrupt them."
Obama proved as good as his word thanks, in part, to his unlikely henchman, Lamar Alexander.