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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“Keystone pipeline: Obama’s unpleasant options” – Politico, 31 January 2014

It is still unknown whether Obama will approve the Keystone XL pipeline, but after the State Department’s January report on Keystone XL, it is safe to say that Obama will eventually authorize it. It is also safe to say that Obama’s choice will anger his liberal base—the pipeline involves an oil extraction process that expends more greenhouse gas emissions than any other means of production. Moreover, there is a big chance that the pipeline could break.

But advocation efforts by pipeline builder TransCanada—backed by the American Petroleum Institute—and conservatives are relentless, the former promoting the jobs the pipeline will creates, and the latter blaming Obama for US unemployment rates and high gas prices. There is no promise that the pipeline would help with either issue, or that these groups’ lobbying efforts are doing anything to sway Obama.

It’s easy to see why Obama is taking his time. If he outright rejects the proposal, he could face major backlash from the GOP for the remainder of his term. In order to take that extra anti-Obama talking point out of the conservatives’ arsenal, and to dodge any kind of disagreement with Canada, some moderate Senate Democrats are voicing their approval of the pipeline. This might not be a redeeming factor for Obama—the Senate Democrats’ approval or his own—when it comes to the GOP’s views on his energy and climate policies, namely the Climate Action Plan.

Ultimately, the choice is up to Obama; the Keystone Pipeline falls under Obama’s purview, as an executive order. While he gave a nod to natural gas and climate-altering policies during his SOTU speech, Obama didn’t comment on the pipeline. Stalling a decision has proved to be in Obama’s favor—the constant bickering between the GOP and environmentalists will allow the administration to follow up on other climate policy plans without the watchful eye of the public.

A little wait may be good, but we should not prolong the decision. All the major elements of this project—cost, jobs, environmental and strategic—are sensitive issues. It is time to approve the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline to bring the world’s third largest oil supply to US from friendly NAFTA country Canada, with whom we share the globe’s largest land border. Let us stop sending petrodollars to Middle East and Venezuela, but rather share the wealth within our own continent.

See also:
Pipeline Fight Lifts Environmental Movement

Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

February 18, 2014

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Copyright 2013. All rights Reserved by Phinix, LLC.

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