As predictably as smoke from a smokestack, objections to the Environmental Protection Agency’s new Clean Power Plan limiting carbon dioxide emissions have come billowing out of industries reliant on mining and burning coal.
But this is smoke without a fire. The predictions of economic decline and lost jobs are overstated and the greater benefits ignored. The objections reflect industries and their political minions who would rather leave coal-burning power plants polluting at current levels than invest more in energy efficiency and renewable energy.
Shamefully, Gov. Pat McCrory some GOP lawmakers want North Carolina to be among the opponents of the new limits. North Carolina has become a leader in solar energy, thanks to its renewable energy standard that compels utilities to use more. But the governor and others would abandoned the state’s leading role in reducing emissions to side with the polluters.
Profits over risks
People should be mad about this. The quality of the air and the warming of the planet are at issue. It’s urgent that the United States slow the pumping of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, and aging, coal-burning plants are the worst contributors. Duke Energy has cut its emissions 22 percent since 2005, but still in 2014 it released 135 million tons of carbon in the United States. Overall, power plants account for 31 percent of America’s greenhouse gas emissions.
The do-nothing Congress has done nothing as the global warming crisis gets worse. Last year was the hottest ever recorded. This year is on track to beat it. In May, a heatwave claimed more than 2,000 lives in India, the fifth-highest heat toll on record. This is not a liberal or conservative issue. This is a do-or-die issue. President Obama has pushed the EPA to do something.
“No challenge poses a greater threat to our future and future generations than a changing climate,” Obama said Monday. “We’re the first generation to feel the effects of climate change, and the last generation that can do something about it.”
The new EPA rules assign each state a target for reducing its carbon pollution from power plants. The percentage of reduction is varied to soften the effect on states most dependent on coal-burning plants. States will be allowed to create their own plans to meet the reduction goals and will have to submit initial versions of their plans by 2016 and final versions by 2018. Under the plan, North Carolina will have to reduce its carbon emissions from power plants by 36 percent by 2030 from a 2005 baseline. The national target is 32 percent.
The EPA plan is key to Obama’s goal of cutting U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 26 percent to 28 percent by 2025. That effort will allow the United States to lead the world by example.
Spurred by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the American Legislative Exchange Council, a conservative advocacy group, some Republican governors are taking the same approach to the EPA plan as they have to the Affordable Care Act. They are demonizing it as an imperial overreach by the president and saying they will fight it in court and refuse to comply until the courts rule.
The plan is within the EPA’s authority to set standards for pollution under the Clean Air Act. What would be the point of the law without the EPA’s power to set standards?
The EPA plan is beneficial without being draconian. The EPA says its plan will not only cut cut carbon pollution from the power sector, but “will also reduce pollutants that contribute to the soot and smog that make people sick by over 25 percent.”
Those health and climate benefits, the EPA estimates, will be worth at least $53 billion a year by 2030. By comparison, the annual cost of complying with the plan will cost between $7.3 billion and $8.8 billion.
Experience has refuted the false alarms about “Obamacare.” It will do the same with the dire warnings about “ObamaAir.”