Environment

Pres. Obama's New Climate Change Plan Has Some Surprising Supporters

More than 300 American businesses have signed a letter addressed to governors across the country in a show of support for a new environmental policy that the Obama administration introduced on Monday. A sustainability coalition, Ceres, collected signatures and published the letter online; it includes the names of Fortune 500 companies such as General Mills, eBay, and Staples.

President Barack Obama unveiled the final draft of his Clean Power Plan this morning, following up on earlier promises to reduce the country's greenhouse gas emissions in an effort to combat global warming. Backed by the Environmental Protection Agency, the measure would impose the first-ever national standards on power plants, setting even tougher limits on carbon pollution while also allowing for greater leniency for states in implementing those standards.

The Obama administration reviewed more than four million public comments submitted to the EPA by environmentalists and energy industry representatives. This measure appears to strike a balance between the competing interests of the energy industry and environmentalists, with more rigorous policies governing greenhouse gases—which have been shown to trap heat in our atmosphere—and options for states to create their own ways to comply with emissions cutting objectives.

How it works

Each state will be assigned emissions reduction targets. States have time to reach their targets, with due dates technically of next year, AP reports, however, there is no penalty for requesting a two-year extension. States are expected to delay, with the "rock-bottom" 2018 deadline. Environmentalists worry that this will make compliance more difficult to regulate. The White House argues that the Clean Power Plan will create jobs and encourage investment in the clean energy industry.

Key provisions of the final Clean Power Plan:

  • The measure seeks to reduce carbon dioxide emissions nationwide by 32 percent from 2005 levels by 2030—nine percent lower than the original proposal.
  • By reducing these emissions, the plan also states it will serve public health interests by avoiding up to 3,600 premature deaths caused by pollution, including "90,000 fewer asthma attacks in children" and "300,000 missed work and school days."
  • Obama also expects that the measure will result in 30 percent more renewable energy production by 2030.
  • The average American family will spend $85 less annually on energy bills if the measures is effective, the White House determined.

Though there are some doubts regarding the implementation of the Clean Power Plan, environmentalists have expressed excitement over the latest emissions reduction provisions. Not only will it limit pollution, which threatens public health as well as our global climate, but it will also create incentives for investors to support the renewable energy industry—wind and solar energy interests in particular.

The Sustainable Energy and Environment Coalition applauded the plan. "[C]limate change poses a real and growing threat to our children, our families, our national security, and our economy. We have a moral obligation to act on climate, and we cannot afford to wait any longer to further reduce carbon pollution," the federal committee wrote in a press release today. "The Clean Power Plan lays the foundation for America’s energy future. We have an opportunity and the ability to make our economy and our communities stronger by investing in proven clean energy technologies to improve efficiency and reliability."

One criticism of the plan is that it will almost inevitably result in higher energy bills in the present. As the AP reported, "[T]he savings come from increased use of wind, power and hydro plants, which operate at a cost of close to zero after they're installed. But acquiring and constructing renewable power sources is still very costly, making it less cost effective in many circumstances."

Opponents to the Clean Power Plan have already signaled their intention to sue if the measure were to pass. In a letter to the EPA, the National Mining Associating requested that the agency put a hold on the rule in order for its legal challenges to go forward. "If the EPA refuses, industry groups plan to ask the courts to take that step instead," the AP reported.

The National Mining Association, the National Association of Manufacturers, the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, the American Energy Alliance, and the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association have all come out against the plan, arguing that it would overburden American taxpayers.

But as we enter into a new era of climate change, with the effects being felt all around us—from more volatile weather patterns to increased asthma rates—the time for action is now, Obama announced.

"Climate change is not a problem for another generation," the president said. "Not anymore."