On Monday, the Obama administration along with the EPA mandated regulations with executive authority to curb global warming and carbon emissions 30 percent by 2030. This is relative to emissions from 2005 levels. The mandate’s proposed regulations were met with mixed reviews by states, and not just from the Republican Party which are the usual suspects in carbon emission reduction obstructionism.
This reduction primarily targets coal emissions from power plants. The EPA reported in 2004 that “the burning of coal, natural gas, and oil for electricity and heat is the largest single source of global greenhouse gas emissions.” These plants have long been accused of contributing to global warming.
The carbon emitted by coal, which produces 40 percent of the electricity for the United States at large, will be dramatically reduced by 2030 under the proposed regulations by the EPA. These coal-burning power plants are alone the second-largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions.
After failing to get carbon emission reduction legislation passed in Congress during his presidency, Obama turned to the Clean Air Act of the 1970’s to mandate the regulations. While experts say that hundreds of coal-fired power plants could close, the EPA would allow states until 2017 to draft plans that can include making coal plants more efficient, generating electricity through more eco-friendly methods, and a host of alternatives to simply closing coal power plants.
This regulation would align the country with U.N. emission reduction targets set in 2009, which Obama pledged to adhere to. EPA administrator Gina McCarthy said during the plans announcement on Monday “we have a moral obligation to act.” Obama highlighted not only climate change concerns, but health concerns. The EPA estimates that the regulations could save up to 6,600 lives and save more than $50 billion every year in pollutant-related health care costs.
However this mandate attempting to curb global warming was met with mixed reviews, the critics being bipartisan in this particular instance, mainly in coal powered states. Nick Rahall, Democratic West Virginia Rep., said he would team up with lawmakers from both parties to introduce legislation to block the EPA regulations. West Virginia gets 96 percent of its electricity from coal plants. Many Democratic representatives and senators from both parties who are criticizing these regulations are facing challenging reelection bids in 2014 in their respective coal powered states.
Lawmakers and industry leaders cite a recent report by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce which claims that the regulations will contribute to the annual loss of 224,000 jobs through 2030 and cut $50 billion annually in GDP. The report claims that $550 billion every year would be lost to household disposable incomes. On the other hand, the Obama administration claims job creation through alternative energy installation and implementation and a reduction in electricity bills over time.
Texas Governor Rick Perry released a statement Monday accusing the President of hypocrisy in comparison with his State of the Union addresses of promised energy independence and job creation. However Obama’s promises in State of the Union addresses also focused largely upon reigning in control of carbon emissions, in compliance with U.N. standards.
The EPA regulations and its sponsors claim flexibility in their plan, allowing states to switch from coal to natural gas. The natural gas extraction industry is booming with new technology allowing drilling in the U.S., especially in the Marcellus Shale region which extends from West Virginia to western New York. This new technology is referred to as fracking, which is hydraulic fracturing that extracts natural gas using dangerous chemicals to surface natural gas from deep wells. This process is also under attack for environmental concerns. However the process of fracking is largely underway without much oversight.
Obama mandate is already under fire by critics on both sides of the party. Under these regulations, states are alternatively affected. Vermont, for example, is the only state without fossil-fuel fired power plants. States like these are encouraged under the regulations to create interstate plans by 2018 to address the issue of carbon emissions. Some states already meet or exceed the targeted carbon emissions levels.
Although this mandate attempting to address global warming concerns was met with mixed reviews by states, new technology is pouring out rapidly that can help facilitate the reduction of carbon emissions. The 2014 elections will surely be centered in large part around these new regulations, but many will sleep more soundly with the promise of cleaner air and cleaner energy, in the hopes to curtail the catastrophic effects promised by global warming.
By Jesse Eells-Adams