A coal-fired plant in Glenrock, Wyoming. Image Credit: Greg Goebel
A coal-fired plant in Glenrock, Wyoming. Image Credit: Greg Goebel

Climate

President Obama Unveils a New Carbon Plan

2 Jun , 2014 by

At the end of his first year in office, President Obama made a bold promise: the United States would cut its greenhouse gas emissions substantially by 2020.

Unfortunately it was a risky pledge that hinged on Congress. After President Obama was unable to get his major climate change proposal through Congress in his first term, it seemed as though his pledge to the rest of the World and planet Earth might disintegrate into thin air.

But today, President Obama announced plans to bypass Congress entirely. By using his executive authority under the Clean Air Act, he proposed an Environmental Protection Agency regulation to cut carbon pollution from the nation’s power plants 30 percent from 2005 levels by 2030. It’s one of the strongest actions ever taken by the United States government to fight climate change.

“The shift to a cleaner-energy economy won’t happen overnight, and it will require tough choices along the way,” President Obama said Saturday in his weekly radio and Internet address, previewing Monday’s announcement. “But a low-carbon, clean-energy economy can be an engine of growth for decades to come. America will build that engine. America will build the future, a future that’s cleaner, more prosperous and full of good jobs.”

The regulation targets the largest source of carbon pollution in the United States: coal-fired power plants. So naturally it has already met huge opposition.

“The administration has set out to kill coal and its 800,000 jobs,” said Senator Michael B. Enzi of Wyoming, the nation’s top coal-producing state, in response to President Obama’s Saturday address. “If it succeeds in death by regulation, we’ll all be paying a lot more money for electricity — if we can get it. Our pocketbook will be lighter, but our country will be darker.”

But rather than forcing coal plants to immediately shutdown, the E.P.A. will allow States several years to retire existing plants. They estimate that by 2030, 30 percent of U.S. electricity will still come from coal, down from about 40 percent today.

The regulation also gives a wide range of options to achieve the pollution cuts. States are encouraged to reduce emissions by making changes across the electricity systems. They’re encouraged to install new wind and solar generation technology. This will create a huge demand for designing and building energy-efficient technology.

The plan is flexible. “That’s what makes it ambitious, but achievable,” said Gina McCarthy, the E.P.A. administrator, in a speech this morning. “That’s how we can keep our energy affordable and reliable. The glue that holds this plan together — and the key to making it work — is that each state’s goal is tailored to its own circumstances, and states have the flexibility to reach their goal in whatever way works best for them.”

The proposal will also help the economy, not hurt it. The E.P.A. estimates that the regulation will cost $7.3 billion to $8.8 billion annually, but will lead to economic benefits of $55 billion to $93 billion throughout the regulation’s lifetime.

The proposal unveiled today is only a draft, open to public comment. Already it has received criticism and praise from industry groups and environmentalists alike. President Obama plans to finalize the regulation by June 2015 so that it will be in place before he leaves office.

To see why Universe Today writes on climate change, and even climate policy, please read a past article on the subject.

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By
Shannon Hall is a freelance science journalist. She holds two B.A.'s from Whitman College in physics-astronomy and philosophy, and an M.S. in astronomy from the University of Wyoming. Currently, she is working toward a second M.S. from NYU's Science, Health and Environmental Reporting program. You can follow her on Twitter @ShannonWHall.



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FarAwayLongAgo
Member
FarAwayLongAgo
June 2, 2014 2:59 PM

This single minded political propaganda spam needs to stop on this blog!

Qev
Member
Qev
June 2, 2014 3:34 PM

Well then stop spouting it. I’m sorry you don’t like facts, it must be rough.

Anyway, I notice the timescale on this is long enough to give several following administrations plenty of time to kneecap the thing, even if it does get passed. razz

postman1
Member
postman1
June 2, 2014 4:27 PM

The liberal bias seems to be flaunted openly, doesn’t it? I expect better from a ‘science’ site.
Anyway, even if this law were to go into effect, it will likely be thrown out later, and will have zero net effect on coal burning for power. China and India will continue to lead the way in production of new coal fired plants and will far surpass any US reductions. All that aside, no one can be sure that increased CO2 will cause any increased heating and observed data show it doesn’t.

Qev
Member
Qev
June 2, 2014 5:34 PM

Reality apparently has a liberal bias, I guess. Also, it isn’t nice to say things that aren’t true. That’s called ‘lying’… but I’m sure you already know that.

Jeffrey Boerst
Member
June 3, 2014 3:56 AM

Science = a search for truth. The Liberals are right on this issue. Conservatives are wrong on this issue. So reporting the truth is ab initio biased toward those who know it and propagate it. The future is unstoppable…

fritzilla
Member
fritzilla
June 3, 2014 1:07 AM
I am seeing this political propaganda show up all over the place online lately, as if people didn’t have anything better to do. I get that there is some link to climate science on an astronomy site, but that’s not what Global Warming is about. It’s about money. “The proposal will also help the economy, not hurt it. The E.P.A. estimates that the regulation will cost $7.3 billion to $8.8 billion annually, but will lead to economic benefits of $55 billion to $93 billion throughout the regulation’s lifetime.” You see, I would like to think that a science site is above spreading politically controversial and questionable agenda pieces. Perhaps I would feel differently if I didn’t know about… Read more »
Olaf
Member
Olaf
June 2, 2014 4:03 PM

Cleaner energy also means less pollution (water, air, land) and less dependency on oil and gas.

hydrazine
Member
hydrazine
June 2, 2014 4:49 PM

Words, words, words… It’s so easy to promise something that is supposed to happen at least two presidents away. This is going to crumble for hundred different reasons, Barack Obama being the main one. It’s so obvious he wants to be remembered for something grand and he is getting desperate. Sorry about the grumpy tone…

Regards,
/hydrazine

Jeffrey Boerst
Member
June 3, 2014 3:58 AM

That is indeed my feeling per “…presidents away…”. Look at Bush II’s space plan….. Long term goals in a Democracy (or whatever it is) like this are quite a sticky business.

mewo
Member
mewo
June 2, 2014 7:25 PM

HOW DARE YOU talk about climate science on an ASTRONOMY blog?!?!?!? You don’t have PERMISSION!

dorvinion
Member
dorvinion
June 3, 2014 1:16 AM
First, it is in the nature of bureaucracies (and politicians) to find reasons to grow its power and its budget. To do this, they need to continually demonstrate their relevance. In this case, the EPA seeks to reduce coal from 40% of US power generation to 30% by 2030. What they neglect to say is that coal usage as a percentage of our total power generation has been declining for the last 15 or so years. A trend that has only increased in speed the past 5 years. Basically, coal plants have been shutting down all by themselves thanks in no small part to the increased availability of natural gas (yay fracking?). In the last 5 years, US… Read more »
jjasensio
Member
jjasensio
June 3, 2014 1:59 PM
I am really amazed: some of you say that climate science has nothing to do with astronomy… OK, I do not see the logic, but it could be discussed: planet earth has nothing to do with astronomy (it is a pity that the dinosaurs cannot give their opinion . And what about launching satellites that are not for astronomical purposes, in this sense?) But then, I have not seen any comment from you (I might have missed them, apologies in advance) when this blog has an entry about a sci-fiction site… nobody says anything about that not being astronomy. Curious. Don´t you think that you guys are “a little bit” biased? Only a little bit, not tooooo much… Read more »
postman1
Member
postman1
June 3, 2014 10:25 PM
I believe most Americans realize that the climate changes. The doubts we have are: Whether man has any effect on climate Whether CO2 causes warming or does it rise after warming Whether the entire AGW movement is a plan to redistribute western wealth Was Eisenhour right concerning government funded science Why would Gore buy a beach house if he believed sea levels were rising Why the MSM goes on about ice loss in the small West Antarctic ice sheet, while overall Antarctic ice extent sets record after record Why record cold and ice is glossed over, but one day of record heat is AGW Why, after 18 years without warming, some climate ‘scientists’ still insist we are warming… Read more »
jjasensio
Member
jjasensio
June 4, 2014 1:38 PM
Hi, I am not a scientist, but I would like to point out at some issues: – You admit that the climate is changing. There must be a reason. Till now, I have seen no better explanation than greenhouse effects. – CO2 is a green housing gas. I think that there is no doubt about it. It was recognized at such much before this issue appeared. We are pumping tones of CO2 to atmosphere. I think that this is also a fact, the Carbon was till now hidden inside the Earth, mostly. Is anybody seriously doubting that? This is a question I had not yet heard. – I cannot see, really, the relation between climate change and a… Read more »
postman1
Member
postman1
June 4, 2014 3:43 PM
The climate has been changing for billions of years, we didn’t do it. Atmospheric CO2 levels have been Much higher many times in the past and we have not seen a runaway greenhouse. Europe, as well as the rest of the affluent nations, are being asked to pay carbon taxes through various schemes and the money is to be spent on poor nations, where most of it goes to line the pockets of the ruling dictators. Agreed, Al Gore is irrational. When the ‘heat island’ stations are removed from the equation, the ‘record heat’ disappears. The maximum as well as the minimum ice extents and thickness have been setting records in Antarctica, the Arctic ice appears to be… Read more »
jjasensio
Member
jjasensio
June 4, 2014 4:34 PM
The climate changes always, but there is or should be always an explanation. The speed at which the climate changes is also very important and needs an explanation. I repeat, till now I have seen no better explanation than green housing. I do not see much money pouring from the CO2 schemes to the poor nations corrupts. In fact, I see very few real money going there due to climate issues. Of course, nothing enough to allow anybody to say taht we are redistributing health. Humans are sometimes idealistic, but not so much… I am not following in detail the records of ice, but the information that I have seen goes in another direction… And there are much… Read more »
dorvinion
Member
dorvinion
June 4, 2014 9:16 PM

The problem with ‘doing something about it’ is that most of the supposed solutions that are put forth (usually by politicians) have a tendency to be rather authoritarian, or handouts to connected businesses.

People don’t appreciate being told that they need to have their electricity costs artificially increased, or that they need to be forced out of their cars and start riding trains, or that they need to made to leave their spacious suburban and rural houses and move into a high density sardine can in the city.

Likewise people don’t like it when they are taxed to provide handouts for friends of politicians.

mewo
Member
mewo
June 4, 2014 10:27 PM

Well, the cost of electricity in Germany just hit $0.00 because of all their renewable energy. It’s just not true that switching to renewables means higher electricity prices. In fact, here in Australia we are seeing our electricity prices go up because of the conservative government’s commitment to propping up the failing coal industry and discouraging renewable energy through punitive disincentives.

postman1
Member
postman1
June 4, 2014 10:54 PM

mewo- German power is $0.00?? I don’t think so:
http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/high-costs-and-errors-of-german-transition-to-renewable-energy-a-920288.html
And the Spanish are looking for a way out of their renewables fiasco due to job losses and exorbitant costs, a 4.7 billion Euro defict:
http://www.renewableenergyworld.com/rea/news/article/2013/07/spain-says-energy-reform-to-cost-companies-2-7-billion

jjasensio
Member
jjasensio
June 5, 2014 1:01 PM
Hello, Postman1 is right (as a Spanish living in Germany, I can tell you something about it…). But the problem with the solar boom in Spain is not, in any case, something that anybody should put as an example of consequences of environmental policies. It is just an example of the incredibly stupid measures that our last goverment took in almost all economy-related issues. You just need to see where we are now. And it is not due to the environmental politics. About the prices of electricity, in any case, I would like to see what are the prices of all the competing forms of generating electricity, if you take into account all the costs that they produce.… Read more »
postman1
Member
postman1
June 5, 2014 2:34 PM

jjasensio I totally agree. I would like to see all of the costs of each method of electricity production spelled out, so we know why it costs what it does. I believe that if the government would drop out of the equation by ending taxes and supports of certain methods, capitalism would provide that answer. Companies would be forced to make their own way and pay for their own mistakes, pollution, research, etc. and pass those costs on to the end users. As long as All costs are factored in.

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