The Obama administration’s new EPA guidelines to cut carbon emissions from existing power plants should be applauded and the reaction from Republicans and some Democrats is more cynical politics as usual.
By 2030, the New EPA guidelines will:
- Cut carbon emission from the power sector by 30 percent nationwide below 2005 levels, which is equal to the emissions from powering more than half the homes in the United States for one year;
- 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
The point of new guidelines is to make coal based power plants run more efficiently. It is this new efficiency that has Republicans and coal state Democrats howling at the moon. Republicans by ideology go into convulsions anytime a new federal regulation is proposed, unless that regulation relates to what a woman can do with her own body, but conservatives and some Democrats are using the new guidelines to push the bogus coal industry propaganda of the war on coal.
Democratic candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes is trying to unseat Sen. Mitch McConnell, so she released a statement jumping on the “war on coal” bandwagon, “President Obama’s new EPA rule is more proof that Washington isn’t working for Kentucky. Coal keeps the lights on in the Commonwealth, providing a way for thousands of Kentuckians to put food on their tables. When I’m in the U.S. Senate, I will fiercely oppose the President’s attack on Kentucky’s coal industry because protecting our jobs will be my number one priority.”
The politics behind a statement such as this one from a red state Democrat are understandable. In the coal industry dependent red states, the war on coal is considered a gospel fact. The McConnell campaign is trying to define Grimes as an Obama puppet, so her political motivations are easily understood. She was trying to demonstrate her independence as a candidate while sticking up for a vital industry in her state.
The problem is that there is no Obama war on coal. The war on coal was waged by the natural gas industry. Obama isn’t harming the coal industry, but the flood of cheap natural gas is killing coal jobs. Ironically, the war on coal started under George W. Bush in 2004. This was when utility companies started to convert over to natural gas. Conservatives wanted to drill, baby drill, and the natural gas industry has done exactly that.
The politics of climate change in the United States have never been in touch with science and reality. The truth is that the administration is only seeking to reduce coal power plant emissions back to 2005 levels, and they are allowing the states to come up with their own plans to meet the 2030 goal.
This isn’t top down regulation coming from the federal government. It’s common sense.
The economic costs will be incredibly low, and the benefits will be high, “”Of course there will be costs, and costs of compliance, but overall for the economy the costs will not be very large, much less than 1 percent of gross domestic product,” said Robert Stavins, professor of business and government for Harvard University’s environmental economics program.
65% of Americans, and 52% of Republicans, support new regulations on coal power plants. President Obama took a historic step in dealing with climate change and pollution.
It is time for America to stop being held hostage by coal industry talking points, and do what is right for future generations.
Politics as usual suffered a defeat today, as President Obama led the nation past partisan talking points and into tomorrow.