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A New Emissions Mission
Obama Unveils America's Biggest Green Policy Step Yet

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today announced what amounts to the biggest commitment to date to reducing carbon emissions in the United States. Under the new rules, states will be allowed to decide how they accomplish these cuts, but if this rule goes into effect, they’ll need to manage those reductions somehow—with renewables, coal plant scrubbers, nuclear, or shale gas—so that the average amount of carbon power plants emit per megawatt hour generated is 30 percent less in 2030 than it was in 2005.

This is just the beginning of what is sure to be a hard-fought battle. The EPA won’t release a final version of the new rule until next June, and will accept public comment in the intervening time. Then, states will have until June of 2016 to put together plans to meet the 2030 targets, or file for extensions. In the meantime, both sides will attempt to galvanize support for their positions.

Proponents will point to the long-term health benefits and even longer-term, more nebulous advantages of climate change mitigation the new rules will incur. According to the EPA, better air quality will reduce lung disease, an improvement to public health that it estimates will save $59 billion by 2030. Opponents will, of course, harp on the immediate costs to the American economy. The EPA estimates that these new rules will cost $7.3–8.8 billion every year, though the Chamber of Commerce came up with a much higher number, more than $50 billion annually. The EPA also estimates that the new emissions targets will incentivize plants to streamline their processes and focus more on energy efficiency, perhaps optimistically concluding that this will lead to cheaper power by 2030.

It’s too early to see where the true balance lies between the proposed rule’s costs and its benefits. As always, the devil will be in the details of the loopholes and exemptions worked in by various interest groups. The new rule is 645 pages after all, and even our army of intrepid writers has not managed to slog through it all.

[This post has been edited.]

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  • gabrielsyme

    Almost by definition, limits on Carbon emissions cannot directly improve health. CO2 is not a health hazard- it is only associated pollution that is harmful to health. If health were really the objective, the Obama Administration would be using the existing and uncontroversial regulatory authority over other pollutants. The idea that this is in any way about health doesn’t fly – it is purely and completely a unilateral attempt to mitigate climate change, which will be entirely ineffective.

  • Andrew Allison

    The simple fact is that the US already leads the world in reduction of CO2 emission. Furthermore, as the past 17 years have demonstrated, the effect of atmospheric CO2 on global temperature is, at best, undetermined. That said, there are other emissions associated with burning coal which are proven health hazards. Whether the cost of greatly reducing the burning of coal in the US will be outweighed by the health benefits, given that the rest of the world is increasing its consumption, is problematic. But we’re dealing with religious beliefs here, not science.

    • Boritz

      There you go “harping”.

  • S.C. Schwarz

    Hard fought battle?

    This battle was lost when the Supreme Court agreed that CO2 was a pollutant and as such the EPA had authority to regulate it under the Clean Air Act. At that moment the president gained complete control over the US economy. The only limitation is that the left not act so quickly as to cede control over both houses of Congress, and the presidency, to the right. If that happened the CAA could be amended. If not, and I don’t see that happening, we are on our way to a fully state controlled economy.

    Encourage your grandchildren to learn Mandarin. The Chinese will need servants when they take over.

  • Rick Johnson

    Is this a limit on carbon (soot and particles) and a limit on carbon dioxide (odourless, tasteless gas http is essential to sustain life on earth)?

    If its carbon, then I can understand the health benefits, but the US already has low levels of emissions and why do you need a nation policy for a state or city based problem.

    If its carbon dioxide, what have the plants done to deserve taking away all this plant food?

  • Boritz

    “Proponents will point…”
    “Opponents will, of course, harp…”

    The writer will exhibit bias…

    • stan

      Democrats may lie, slander and engage in wholesale character assassination, but they pretend to care. Republicans, however, are icky. Thus the need to propagandize on behalf of the liars and corrupt.

  • Jacksonian_Libertarian

    This is unconstitutional; the federal government was never given the authority to regulate the environment in the Constitution. In fact much of what the federal government is doing violates the 9th and 10th Amendments which state that if a power or authority isn’t specifically enumerated in the Constitution, then that power or authority was retained by the States and/or the People. The power hungry federal government has vastly overreached its authority, and the poodles in the Supreme Court who have been chosen by the very same branches they are suppose to protect the state’s and the people’s rights from, have let them do it.

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