published Tuesday, June 3rd, 2014

Overdue carbon rules: What have we been waiting for?

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy gestures after signing new emission guidelines.
Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy gestures after signing new emission guidelines.
Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Monday's announcement of new federal carbon pollution standards for existing power plants is long awaited, long overdue and almost certainly not enough.

That said, the proposed rules announced by President Obama and the Environmental Protection Agency, are a critical part of what we must do to reduce carbon pollution that both causes climate change and threatens our health.

The standards call for an overall U.S. reduction in carbon emissions from the power sector by 30 percent nationwide below 2005 levels by the year 2030.

Nationally, we have a head start because power plants, which generate one-third of U.S. carbon emissions, already reduced carbon dioxide emissions by nearly 13 percent since 2005. That means we are about halfway toward the goal, and it happened in part because natural gas and other alternatives emerged as less costly options for utilities and electric users.

The EPA estimates the new rules will cost the economy up to $8.8 billion annually but will lead to benefits of $55 billion to $93 billion, primarily by preventing premature deaths and mitigating respiratory diseases. Critics complain the rules will drive up electricity costs, but EPA forecasts that the rules will increase overall energy efficiency, leading to lower electricity bills when the program is fully implemented in 2030.

From the global standpoint, however, the picture is not so good. The rule will not, on its own, lower greenhouse gas pollution enough to prevent catastrophic effects of climate change. What it will do, in combination with other regulations, is allow the United States to meet its commitment to the United Nations to cut carbon pollution 17 percent by 2020 and press other major polluting countries -- particularly China and India -- to follow suit. Certainly without us on board, China and India have no reason to be pressured.

The Tennessee Valley Authority already has proven that these reductions can be made. TVA ranked No. 5 among U.S. utilities in carbon dioxide emissions with 77.4 million tons released in 2012 but now is on pace to cut its carbon releases as it phases out more coal plants. TVA data indicates the utility cut carbon emissions from 2005 to 2013 by more than 30 percent and expects to cut another 10 percent by 2020. TVA President and CEO Bill Johnson said Monday that all those cuts were made without consideration of carbon calculations. Instead, human health pollution factors and cost of efficiency to keep rates affordable were the drivers in those decisions.

The trouble is, the new rules -- which are not one-size-fits-all and will have different impacts from state to state -- still face an uphill battle with the shifting winds of future -- mostly partisan -- political will.

Although Obama doesn't need a vote in Congress to approve the plan, lawmakers in both the House and Senate have already vowed to try to block them. Then there is the fact that the plan relies heavily on governors agreeing to develop plans to meet the federal standard. If Republican governors refuse to go along, as was the case with Obama's expansion of Medicaid, the EPA can create its own plan for a state. But the specifics of how EPA could force a state to comply remain murky.

We must find a way to make this happen.

The world's nations have set a goal to limit the planet's warming to 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit above the preindustrial level. To meet that, studies suggest global emissions need to peak no later than 2020 and then begin to fall. Today, emissions are not falling nearly fast enough in the Western Hemisphere, and those reductions are being swamped by a rapid rise in the East. Well into the 2020s, it will still be technically possible to meet the global warming target, but the longer nations put off taking bold action, the more expensive and disruptive it will be to do so once they finally get serious.

And, yes, the global issue is very much a local issue. The Southeast disproportionately contributes to national carbon pollution levels due to its abundance of coal-fired power plants. Even in 2012 and with TVA's reductions, over 366 million tons of CO2 were emitted from about 270 coal units at 82 coal-fired power plants across the eight states in the Southeast.

And the Southeast is vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. We have coastlines already seeing sea level rise and coastal flooding, and our warmer-than-average annual temperatures are changing our health, tourism and farming futures.

Changing the way we power our homes and businesses isn't just about whether we breathe better or whether our power bill is affordable. It is, in fact, everything about our future.

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timbo said...

Blah..blah...blah...

June 3, 2014 at 1:55 p.m.
conservative said...

Is that a man or woman?

June 3, 2014 at 2:42 p.m.
timbo said...

Good question...maybe it doesn't know either.

June 3, 2014 at 3:19 p.m.
librul said...

She's more of a woman than you three stooges are men and ... BONUS ... she has a functioning brain!

June 3, 2014 at 9:54 p.m.
nucanuck said...

Give Obama a small plus for making a long overdue move toward carbon reduction, but let's get real…it's too little and thirty years too late.

Not only is much more than 3.6F already baked in the cake, the IPCC has said that only geo-engineering can now hope to stabilize/prevent far more rise. Geo-engineering is a crap shoot! Add to that the fact that the IPCC numbers don't include the now rapid increases in global methane in the atmosphere and it becomes almost certain that we have already entered into the sixth great extinction.

Even a complete collapse of the existing global economic order would not avert the inevitable amount of warming that will sharply reduce major amounts of livable habitat. It may not become too hot for humans to exist, but food production will surely collapse to a far lower level. Those without a localized food supply will simply starve, but not before social chaos breaks out in search of food. Most humans are only nine meals away from anti-social behavior in search for food. When the trucks don't roll, all hell will break loose.

There are really only two things that we humans can do to prepare for what has now become inevitable. 1) Work individually and as a community to build local food resilience…NOW! Local food producers and individual gardens will be the key to survival in the very near future. Individual food security depends equally on your neighbors' ability to eat. 2) Acceptance of the reality of the scope of the AGW situation in which we find ourselves. For many, that will require moving through the stages of grief. This is not a drill and this is not a hoax. It is real and it is happening now.

We can't know whether there will be a human remainder community that survives this sixth extinction event, but we can redirect our lives in as positive a way as possible. We can try to find the best that is within us at the time in which that is most difficult.

June 4, 2014 at 2:05 a.m.
conservative said...

Hey nucanuck, where have been?

Are you still consuming 2.3 earths?

I was wondering if you had succumbed to all that guilt over the harm you have done to the earth.

June 4, 2014 at 7:23 a.m.
charivara said...

Come on timbo, conservative: “blah, blah blah”, “is that a man or a woman” etc. etc. That’s your idea of a rebuttal to an editorial about a serious issue to people who are knowledgeable about these kinds of things? You really should wait until you get out of the 5th grade (mentally, if not chronologically) before you comment about things you obviously are ignorant of. Blah blah blah is exactly what your contributions to any meaningful discussions have ever meant.

June 4, 2014 at 9:45 a.m.
conservative said...

Che Guevara

I didn't bother to read it.

When you know the character of the beast you can predict the conduct of the beast.

Ms. Sohn has strongly advised you to get a rowboat and emergency supplies. Have you complied?

I own Walmart stock, the end is near, hurry!

June 4, 2014 at 10:08 a.m.
nucanuck said...

Still a thoughtless twit, eh, con-man?

June 4, 2014 at 11:28 a.m.
charivara said...

Mental age confirmed.

June 4, 2014 at 11:47 a.m.
conservative said...

Hey nucanuck and Che Guevara, if Ms. Sohn has you two worried about radiation from nuclear plants then I have some sound advice for you on Hazmat Suits.

Do NOT buy one of those $20.00 suits. They are useless against radiation.

What you will need is something like a Demron® Full Bodysuit Hazmat Suit.

They go for $1,699.99 but it is such a small price to pay for your life!

Here is the link. Hurry!

http://www.amazon.com/Demron%C2%AE-Full-Bodysuit-Hazmat-Suits/dp/B007Z42GCY/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1401898283&sr=8-3&keywords=radiation+suits

June 4, 2014 at 12:22 p.m.
conservative said...

87 degrees in Chattanooga and the gloom and doomers are running their air conditioners and driving their fossil fuelers and they will continue to do so.

June 4, 2014 at 5:19 p.m.
conservative said...

Nucanuck

I read your 2:05 a.m.

I am not going to make fun of you this time for I am now convinced that you are not well.

I suspect you have a drug problem.

Please, get help. You need help nucanuck. You are getting worse.

Please, have a family member or friend read what you wrote and ask them for a valuation.

June 4, 2014 at 6:38 p.m.
timbo said...

Charivira...It isn't serious...this is all bunk. There is no reason to treat it as such. Also, she does look like a guy. The haircut...give me a break. Can the Obama administration just hire on good looking woman? Aren't there some smart good looking female democrats somewhere?

Also, since you are having trouble understanding my point, Pam Sohn writes about 3 columns a week on global warming. The "Blah, blah, blah.." was because she keep repeating herself like a 1960's Pravda editor. Just because you say a hundred times does not make it true.

Nucanuck....why aren't coastal cities under water if what you say is true? It is always "going to happen" but why isn't it happening? Should I cancel my trip to Myrtle Beach or just get a house on the second row? You hysterical environmental types are dead wrong.

June 5, 2014 at 10:50 a.m.
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