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A Look At the US Government’s New Pollution Policies

Soon after President Obama was elected, he made a commitment to place the USA on a path to reducing carbon pollution. On June 25th, 2013, he took his most ambitious step yet towards fulfilling this commitment, by unveiling his new climate change action plan, containing proposals to reduce carbon emissions at the domestic level, as well as leading global efforts to combat climate change. These proposals have clear implications for business and industry, as well as for the domestic consumer.

The president’s speech drew strong criticism from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) who said the plan is “tantamount to declaring a war on jobs. It’s tantamount to kicking the ladder out from beneath the feet of many Americans struggling in today’s economy.”

Three Main Objectives of the New Pollution Policies

Wind power may replace many coal power plantsObama’s policy contains three main objectives. The first, which is the one that will impact most on business and industry, is the commitment to reducing the level of carbon pollution on the domestic front. The second focuses on preparing communities throughout the nation to deal with the effects of global warming, and the third affirms the government’s determination to take the lead in international efforts to combat and minimize global climate change.

Restrictions On Power Plants

Towards the first objective, one major proposal is to impose stringent GHG (greenhouse gas) emission standards on both new and existing power generating plants. These plants currently contribute no less than 40 percent of the country’s entire carbon pollution. The likely implication of this is that no new coal-fired plants will be built, and some of the existing coal-fired capacity will be closed down. The aim is to improve public health by reducing pollution, while at the same time ensuring the provision of a power supply that is sufficient for economic growth. This would significantly increase the use of natural gas as a source for producing electricity. Currently with the price of natural gas falling due to increased production due to fracking utilities are switching to Natural Gas anyway, so it will have little effect. But should trends move in the other direction the inability to switch to coal could result in higher electricity prices.

In addition, the International Energy Agency is estimating that between now and 2035 coal will be the world’s fastest growing energy resource, not because of U.S. demand but because of increased demand in China, India and Indonesia and the development of new major coal mines in Mozambique, Indonesia, Mongolia, and Kazakhstan.

Fuel Economy

If power plants are the biggest source of carbon emissions, heavy-duty vehicles are the second biggest, and another major component of the new policy is to build a transportation sector fit for the 21st century. Stringent fuel economy standards have already been established for trucks and buses, and these standards will become even tougher from 2018. This is considered a positive move for consumers, as it will save the average driver thousands of dollars over the life of the vehicle, but it will probably result in increased initial purchase costs which could negate most of the cost savings. Critics say that the tighter regulations will result in higher gas prices for consumers. According to one industry report, the new fuel standards will raise the cost of producing gasoline by 9 cents a gallon, costs that will likely be passed on to consumers. The American Petroleum Institute estimates Obama’s proposal will cost oil refiners an estimated $10 billion upfront and an additional $2.4 billion a year in compliance costs.

The American asks, “The president’s speech seems to imply that “energy efficiency” is somehow free. That is, that it’s easy to achieve reductions in energy use without causing a reduction in the benefits from energy use. Were that the case, one wonders why market forces do not lead to such outcomes themselves?”

Renewable Energy Projects

Another goal is expanding renewable energy projects on public land. The original goal of establishing 10 gigawatts of renewable electrical energy on public land has already been met by the DOI (Department of the Interior), and the Department is now directed to permit a further 10 gigawatts by 2020. In addition they should allow enough solar energy and wind projects on public land to provide power for at least 6 million homes by 2020. The policy also puts in place measures to expand and modernize the electric grid, noting that this is crucial to achieving the aims of reducing fuel costs and promoting sources of clean energy.

New regulations could make natural gas and nuclear power more attractive, since they emit less carbon dioxide than coal-fired power plants, and they could greatly boost renewable energy, such as wind and solar power, and speed the adoption of energy-efficiency measures.

Reducing Energy Waste

A further objective is to cut down on domestic and business energy waste, the declared goal being to double energy productivity by 2030, compared to 2010 levels. Just one factor on its own, the new minimum efficiency standards for electrical appliances, should save enough energy to power 85 million homes for two years, as well as reducing GHG pollution by at least 3 million metric tonnes by 2020. This is equivalent to almost half the entire carbon pollution from the US energy sector over one year.

Not Everyone is Pleased

Anthony Watts who claims to have “The world’s most viewed site on global warming and climate change” in a post entitled The President’s Climate Action Plan – The Good, Bad, and the Ugly.  Says:

I’m not impressed at all with the Obama plan. It lacks real vision, and seems written mainly to appease activist groups. While there are some glimmers of positive things in it, the lack of a real way forward (solar, biofuels, and wind aren’t it) combined with new restrictions can only mean higher energy prices in our future, most of it due to government meddling in the free market.

Like most everything from this president, it is likely to be mostly lip service and tied up in legal battles for years. By that time Obama will no longer be President, and we’ll be left to wrestle with the consequences.

Regarding Climate Change

Despite the President’s claim that 97% of Scientists believe in Global warming, The American says:

There has been no temperature trend over the last 15 or so years despite increasing atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide and other GHG. This record has belied the predictions of the climate change models, yielding some uneasiness among the proponents of the conventional view. More generally, the earth has been emerging from the Little Ice Age since roughly 1850. Accordingly, there has been an upward long-term temperature trend: temperatures increased from about 1910 through about 1940, were roughly constant through about 1980, increased until 1998 (a year with a strong El Niño), and have exhibited no trend since then…

The past 12 months have set a record for the fewest tornados ever in a similar period, and there has been no trend since 1950 in the frequency of strong (F3 to F5) tornados in the United States… A widely accepted and documented measure of tropical cyclone energy is near its lowest level since reliable measurements began by satellite in the 1970s… There is no long-term trend in sea level increases despite rising atmospheric concentrations of GHG. The record of changes in the size of the Arctic ice cover is far more ambiguous than generally asserted. The Palmer Drought Severity Index shows no trend over the record period beginning in 1895 in terms of drought; more areas in the United States have experienced an increase in soil moisture than a decline…

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William Stevens is a writer who creates informative articles in relation to technology.

Image courtesy of xedos4 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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