Nel's New Day

June 9, 2014

EPA Plan Reduces Carbon Emissions

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 7:20 PM

Climate change plans, such as the proposed EPA policies to control carbon emissions from power plants, would ordinarily have sent the Republicans over the edge, but the GOP is still foaming at the mouth about Bowe Bergdahl’s release from Afghanistan. Meanwhile more information is coming out about the plan to cut 30 percent of carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants by 2030 and move the nation away from a dependence on coal. Achieving this would reduce emissions equal to two-thirds of all the nation’s 305 passenger vehicles.

Power plants and vehicles are the two biggest sources of carbon pollution in the U.S., accounting for about 38 and 31 percent of carbon emissions. Emission controls on cars were addressed in 2009 and on heavy-duty trucks in 2014. At this time, coal-burning power plants in this country exceed the total combined carbon emissions of Central and South America.

Each state has a different reduction target and gives them flexibility in achieving their goals through a rate-based system rather than a cap on total carbon tonnage; 27 states already have a form of emissions-control program. Some states that rely heavily on coal-fired power plants will have lower emission targets than others. For example, West Virginia is assigned a 19-percent cut compared to the 28 percent for Ohio. On the other hand, New York has a 44-percent target with credit for existing advances in lowering emissions. The president has asked the EPA to finalize the plan within the next year and each state to submit plans within two years. A public comment period of 120 days will include hearings in Denver, Atlanta, Pittsburgh, and Washington, D.C.

state-carbon-intensity_0

The actual cost of implementing the new program is dependent on state decisions. British Columbia’s carbon-tax system, for example, has netted more than $5 billion in revenue since 2008, while carbon emissions plunged seven times more than they would have otherwise. A distinct savings will be on health costs.

The goal to reduce air pollution, improve health, and spur a clean energy economy would saving more than $90 billion in climate and health benefits. Even short-term air pollution exposure can cause an abnormal heart rhythm and blood clots in lungs. It could annually avoid up to 100,000 asthma attacks and 2,100 heart attacks.

Coal would still provide 30 percent of U.S. power in 2030 as compared to 37 percent at this time, down from 52 percent in 2000. Coal-fired plants, with an average age of 42 years, will naturally be retired because prices for natural gas are plunging.  Since 2000, the share of U.S. electricity in the U.S. has almost doubled. In the past five years, wind energy has tripled, and solar energy has grown ten-fold. Total U.S. carbon emissions have already declined by 10 percent since 2005.

The attacks on the new rules surround the three C’s: conspiracy, cost and China. Conservatives claim that there’s no climate warming; that it there were, the country can’t afford to fix the problem; and that it’s useless because China won’t do it.

Their theories have already been disproved:

  • Electricity rates are currently lower than when President Obama took office even after new EPA requirements for power plants to slash their mercury pollution by 90 percent by 2015. Electricity from wind and solar power has also doubled since 2008, but rates are lower than before.
  • Earlier warnings of job losses have been wrong. Indiana increased employment by 132,000 since that claim. Despite a deep recession, cheaper natural gas, and greater green energy power, there are 2,000 more coal miners in 2014 than in 2008.
  • Chinese officials understand that the country’s dependence on exports will force them to help protect the planet. One of their steps may be to impose “carbon tariffs” on goods imported from countries that aren’t taking any action to reverse climate change. The day after President Obama announced his new plan, China came out to its proposal to impose an absolute cap on carbon emissions in 2016.
  • The Chamber of Commerce’s prediction in 2011 of “rolling blackouts” have not occurred.

The fossil fuel industry-funded Heartland Institute recommends opposition to the plan to “cost [Obama’s] party the Senate in the November elections and dramatically increase the Republican majority in the House of Representatives – which will enable the Republicans to stymie any further legislative action by the president for the remainder of his term.” That’s the GOP’s position on science.

Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) said that greenhouse gases “do not cause direct adverse health effects.” That’s because effects are indirect through smog, higher sea levels, etc. The right-wing EPAFacts ran a full-page ad saying that the EPA wants “to shut down 25 percent of the electric grid.” Another of the group’s beliefs is that sunlight hitting wind turbines can cause seizures. Climate denier Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), head of the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, claims that the plan is a way to “redistribute wealth among nations.”  House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) links the new plan to a cap-and-trade system.”

When conservatives do tackle scientific concepts, they say things such as “carbon dioxide is essential to plant growth – more carbon dioxide makes for a greener planet … CO2 emissions boost the economy and don’t hurt the planet – in fact they most likely benefit the biosphere.” Boehner says, correctly, that he does not have the credentials to debate the science of climate change but then tells George Stephanopoulos that carbon dioxide must be very good for you because we exhale it.

On The Daily Show, Jon Stewart punctured Boehner’s argument:

“Yes! You can never have enough carbon dioxide. That’s why I kept my pet hamster in an cardboard box with no holes in it. He’s doing very well… He’s been asleep for three years.”

Marita Noon, executive director of the Citizens Alliance for Responsible Energy, put her complaints in plain terms:

“America is poised to become the ‘no pee’ section of the global swimming pool … Just because we declare that we won’t pee in the pool, won’t stop the others. … We’ll be stuck in our little no-pee section with a crippled economy while the rest of the world will be frolicking in unfettered growth.”

The president has a lot of company in believing that we should not pee in the pool. Seventy percent of voters in the U.S. support federal limits on greenhouse gas emissions from existing power plants, and that includes 63 percent of Republicans.

Another poll found that the average American would be willing to pay $162 in higher electric bills for cleaner energy. That is higher than even the Chamber of Commerce’s exaggerated estimates of what the rules would cost. One estimate states that the average household could save $103 per year on electric bills if they invest in energy efficiency.

States getting most of their electricity from coal could see higher electric bills than the rest of the country, and groups such as the National Mining Association plans to concentrate on those 19 states that get more than half their electricity from coal. In upper Midwestern states the groups will argue that increased costs would damage manufacturing.

Coal state Kentucky, however, has discovered that the costs for mining in the state is more than the revenue. Like other states, Kentucky can meet its emissions reduction goal by adding renewable sources of power, stressing conservation measures such as weatherization, encouraging more efficient appliances, and switching to natural gas. They may decide to do without the high costs of the aging coal-fired power plants.

Conservatives are furious because the EPA has the legal right to reduce carbon emissions. The 2007 Supreme Court case Massachusetts v. EPA ruled that the agency can treat greenhouse gases as dangerous pollutants and limit them through the Clean Air Act. American Electric Power v. Connecticut ruled that the EPA can regulate carbon pollution from power plants.

In 2009, President Obama was willing to exempt coal from bipartisan climate legislation which Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) sabotaged. He also offered new subsidies and benefits. A filibuster killed the Senate bill sent from the House and led to the president’s new climate plan. Republicans lost control of the issue.

In the United States, a determined minority can often block the will of the majority. The least populated state, Wyoming, gets 85 percent of its energy from coal and has the same number of senators as California, the most-populated state which gets less than 1 percent of its power from coal. Wyoming shows its disdain for reversing climate change by adopting new science standards which include climate change.

The current conservative movement doesn’t have businessmen willing to cut deals. Their goal is to deny Democrats even small policy achievements as shown by the GOP voting down a bill to reduce government spending and help businesses save money voluntarily through energy efficiency.

The question is whether businesses will support the plan. The fact that even conservative, money-oriented Forbes is in favor of controlling carbon emissions is a good sign. Highly conservative Robert Samuelson writes that the EPA plans don’t go far enough to reverse climate change. Maybe the GOP thinks that a program to reduce carbon emissions is one that they can’t achieve.

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