Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Answering 3 Questions About Obama's Upcoming Carbon Emissions Rules

Climate
Answering 3 Questions About Obama's Upcoming Carbon Emissions Rules

When President Barack Obama speaks Monday, he is expected to present a set of standards that will have a lasting impact on the environment, our health and the bottom lines of power plant operators.

Together, the rules will form a new regulation on existing coal-fired power plants and how much carbon they are permitted to emit. Many expect the rules to create a program allowing states to tax the biggest offenders.

With the help of experts from the Union of Concerned Scientists and the Natural Resources Defense Council, as well as environmental reporters from the Associated Press and New York Times, here are some answers to key points about the to-be-unveiled rules.

Obama's carbon emissions rules will have a lasting impact on the environment, our health and the bottom lines of power plant operators.
Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

Why are they important?

Fossil fuel-fired power plants emit 40 percent of the nation’s carbon pollution, as well as significant amounts of mercury, acid gases, and pollutants that contribute to smog and particulates. Coal is the biggest source of greenhouse gases and a direct cause of climate change and the warming of the planet.

The new rules, crafted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, will mark the first limits on carbon emissions from the energy sector.

"The standards can build on the ongoing transition away from coal-fired power to cleaner, increasingly cost-competitive generation sources like natural gas, wind and solar energy, and energy efficiency. In 2012, this shift helped lower energy-related emissions to their lowest level since 1994, and we now have the opportunity to go further," Rachel Cleetus, senior climate economist of the UCS, writes.

Additionally, a report from the Harvard School of Public Health and Syracuse University states that stronger standards mean "greater and more widespread the benefits will be for people and for the environment.”

How will the rules affect the energy sector and its customers?

There is no way to know until Obama approaches the podium. As Lederman points out, the Administration has yet to say whether one national rule will be established or if states will be subject to unique standards.

However, the New York Times reported this week that "people familiar with the rule" said a national limit on carbon pollution will be set while also allowing states to develop emissions-reduction plans that could include the addition of wind and solar power, energy-efficiency technology and cap-and-trade programs.

Either way, for the residents of coal-heavy states like Ohio, Utah and Arizona, new rules will "literally mean a breath of fresh air," said David Doniger of the NRDC. If plants are limited on the amount of pollution they can emit, the risks of heart and asthma attacks will go down, as will emphysema and other respiratory illnesses.

Opponents like the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity have warned that new standards will ultimately drive up prices for the consumer. In March, that group estimated that retail electricity prices would rise in 29 states, eliminating nearly 3 million jobs. Environmentalists hope that the rules mandate efficiency and cleaner energy, to bring down costs over time. A price bump could be offset by decreased health care costs, particularly for those who live near coal-fired power plants.

What do new carbon rules mean for Obama's environmental legacy?

Far more than his decision on the Keystone XL pipeline, unnamed Administration officials told the New York Times. A strong set of standards would easily constitute Obama's strongest stance against climate change, something international groups, scientists and the military agree we need to be fighting. They will prove that the president is unafraid to use executive authority to aid in that fight.

If Obama did nothing, there's absolutely no way climate legislation would get approved in Congress—not with legislators like Marco Rubio, R-FL, stating that humans have nothing to do with climate change and John Boehner, R-OH, saying that climate legislation would hurt the economy.

Be warned—the rules will be open for revisions and public comment for a full year, according to the AP. Under the state scenario, states would have yet another year to submit their implementation plans.

Still, new rules could go a long way toward Obama's six-year-old goal of reducing carbon emissions by 17 percent by 2020.

"What’s clear is that this is a significant opportunity—perhaps the most significant we’ve ever had—to make deep cuts in U.S. heat-trapping emissions," Cleetus writes. "The power plant carbon standards could be a climate game changer!"

——–

YOU ALSO MIGHT LIKE

Why Energy Efficiency Deserves a Key Role in EPA Carbon Limits

White House’s Alarming Climate Change Study Calls For ‘Urgent Action’

NASA: Earth Could Warm 20 Percent More Than Earlier Estimates

——–

Producing avocado and almond crops is having a detrimental effect on bees. Molly Aaker / Getty Images

At first glance, you wouldn't think avocados and almonds could harm bees; but a closer look at how these popular crops are produced reveals their potentially detrimental effect on pollinators.

Read More Show Less

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

An oblique (left) and dorsal (right) photo of a female Pharohylaeus lactiferous. J.B. Dorey / Journal of Hymenoptera Research

Australia is one of the most biodiverse countries in the world. It is home to more than 7% of all the world's plant and animal species, many of which are endemic. One such species, the Pharohylaeus lactiferus bee, was recently rediscovered after spending nearly 100 years out of sight from humans.

Read More Show Less

Trending

Scientists believe sharks use bioluminescence to camouflage themselves. Jérôme Mallefet

Scientists have newly photographed three species of shark that can glow in the dark, according to a study published in Frontiers in Marine Science last month.

Read More Show Less
A FedEx truck travels along Interstate 10 by the San Gorgonio Pass Wind Farm near Palm Springs, California on Feb. 27, 2019. Robert Alexander / Getty Images

FedEx's entire parcel pickup and delivery fleet will become 100 percent electric by 2040, according to a statement released Wednesday. The ambitious plan includes checkpoints, such as aiming for 50 percent electric vehicles by 2025.

Read More Show Less
Empty freeways, such as this one in LA, were a common sight during COVID-19 lockdowns in spring 2020. vlvart / Getty Images

Lockdown measures to stop the spread of the coronavirus pandemic had the added benefit of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by around seven percent, or 2.6 billion metric tons, in 2020.

Read More Show Less