The “War Of Words On Coal” Continues

Yesterday, the EPA presented new rules for power plants emissions, called the Clean Power Plan proposal. These rules are a small part of Obama’s Climate Action Plan, which he is pursuing through executive action. The four building blocks of the EPA’s proposal are:

    • Cut carbon emissions from the power sector by 30 percent nationwide below 2005 levels;
    • Cut particle pollution, nitrogen oxides, and sulfur dioxide by more than 25 percent as a co-benefit;
    • Avoid up to 6,600 premature deaths, up to 150,000 asthma attacks in children, and up to 490,000 missed work or school days-providing up to $93 billion in climate and public health benefits; and
    • Shrink electricity bills roughly 8 percent by increasing energy efficiency and reducing demand in the electricity system.

(via EPA)

According to the EPA, carbon dioxide emissions from US power plants have decreased by 13 percent since 2005. While different states will be given different emissions quotas, 30 percent is the US’s nationwide goal. States have up to three years to draft plans to meet their goals. Initial compliance plans are due June 30, 2016, but some states will be allotted a one-year extension. States that form multi-state plans will be allotted a two-year extension. If a state decides not to formulate a plan, then the EPA will write one for the state.

The EPA will present a number of options that will help the states meet target goals, such as helping power plants to become more efficient and spending more on sources of renewable energy. Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Virginia, and West Virginia have already passed laws that permit their environmental agencies to create unique carbon-emission plans. Louisiana and Ohio are also following suit.

Conservatives have been battling Obama’s climate regulations for months. As the 2014 midterm elections loom right around the corner, conservatives and their industry allies will do anything they can to stir the political pot and anger voters. Voters in states like Kentucky and West Virginia are the determining factor in whether or not the Democrats retain the Senate majority. Many Democrats who are openly against the new rules represent coal-producing states, such as West Virginia Democratic Rep. Nick Rahall—96 percent of his state’s power comes from coal.

The coal industry contends that the new rules will have negative repercussions on the economy, including major damage to coal and manufacturing jobs, increased household electricity costs, and a rising number of brown-outs during extreme heat or cold. The US Chamber of Commerce—opponents of the new regulations—contend that the Clean Power Plan proposal will result in a loss of almost a quarter-million jobs through 2030, will force power plants across the US to shut down, and will inflict $50 billion in yearly costs.


The US depends on coal for 40 percent of its electricity; however, 30 percent of greenhouse gas emissions originate from electricity, and within that percentage, coal-fired power plants make up 80% of those emissions. Overall, coal-fired power plants expel 25% of all greenhouse gas emissions.

While conservatives, and some liberals, see the proposed regulations as an attack on the coal industry, Obama sees it as way to not only clean up our environment, but also as a way to avert a national health crisis. Current climate law is dictated by the decades-old Clean Air Act, which regulates pollutants like soot, mercury, lead, arsenic, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen oxides, but not carbon pollution.

The EPA will permit comment on the Clean Power Plan proposal for 120 days after it is published in the Federal Register, and will also conduct public hearings in Denver, Atlanta, Washington DC, and Pittsburgh during the week of July 28. The EPA’s proposed rules won’t be finalized until next year.

Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

June 2, 2014

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Copyright 2014. All rights Reserved by Phinix, LLC.

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“Greenhouse-Gas Fight Escalates” – Wall Street Journal, 2 September 2013

The Obama Administration is seeking to increase prices on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, a move that has inevitably stirred up trouble in Congress, causing Congress to introduce new legislation.

In May, the DOE publicized estimates of how much a ton of carbon dioxide emissions costs the US — the estimate in 2010 dollars was $21, a decrease from the 2007 estimate, which was $36 per ton.

Carbon dioxide emissions fell out of demand, and prices plummeted, between those years because the administration did not lawfully require companies to buy CO2 stock. But Obama has found that those estimates are significant because the pricier carbon pollution becomes, the greater impact it can have on both the US environment and economy. The EPA is planning to introduce additional, similar regulations, which also include limits for new power plants.

This August, House Republicans passed a bill, prohibiting the use of those estimates; House Republicans would rather have Congress price out estimates, rather than the administration.

Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz has concluded that the 2007 $36 estimate is similar, or lower, than estimates used by major oil companies. Exxon Mobil Corp, for instance, has priced carbon dioxide emissions at $80 per ton by 2040, while BP currently prices carbon at $40 per ton.

The great assumption behind placing a price tag on carbon emissions is that climate change is rapidly developing, and that more CO2 in the atmosphere will give way to more natural disasters and growing sea levels. The Bush Administration was also moving to price carbon emissions, though unsuccessful. The Obama Administration has employed many computer economic models in order to ascertain current estimates, though such estimates are not trusted by all. A $36/ton estimate could surely lead to stricter regulations on coal-fired power plants, meaning higher electricity costs for consumers.

Yale economics professor William Nordhaus is the innovator behind the best-known climate change model. While numerous scientists have tried to deny the fact that climate change exists, Nordhaus, though “no climate hawk”, continues to present key facts as to why it is important that CO2 emissions be regulated. Read more here.

Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

September 13, 2013

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Copyright 2013. All rights Reserved by Phinix, LLC.

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