Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.
By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 8:13 PM GMT on June 02, 2014
President Obama's administration unveiled on Monday the "Clean Power Plan", a 645-page proposal to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from existing U.S. power plants under the 1970 Clean Air Act. The proposed regulations would reduce carbon dioxide emissions from these plants by 25% by 2020, compared to 2005 levels, and by 30% by 2030. The new regulations would hit the nation's 491 coal-fired power plants the most, since these plants account for 74% of the electric sector's carbon dioxide emissions, according to the Energy Information Administration. Coal burning supplies 37% of the nation's electric power, just behind natural gas.
Figure 1. On a hot day at Georgetown University, President Barack Obama removes his jacket before speaking about climate change on Tuesday, June 25, 2013. AP Photo.
The EPA plans to finalize the regulations by June 30, 2015, and states would have until June 2016 to submit their plans to the agency. Any American can comment on the proposed regulations here. The proposed regulations have already come under heavy fire from lawmakers in coal-producing states like West Virginia and Kentucky, and from industry-funded lobbying groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, who warn of large job losses and economic costs. But in EPA administrator Gina McCarthy's June 2 speech, she touted that "the first year that these standards go into effect, we’ll avoid up to 100,000 asthma attacks and 2,100 heart attacks—and those numbers go up from there. In 2030, the Clean Power Plan will deliver climate and health benefits of up to $90 billion dollars. And for soot and smog reductions alone, that means for every dollar we invest in the plan, families will see $7 dollars in health benefits. And if states are smart about taking advantage of efficiency opportunities, and I know they are, when the effects of this plan are in place in 2030, average electricity bills will be 8 percent cheaper."
The Road to the Crucial 2015 Climate Change Summit In Paris
At the 2009 Copenhagen climate change negotiations, the U.S. committed to a goal of reducing nationwide greenhouse gas emissions by 17% below 2005 levels by 2020. Today's proposed regulations only affect the electric power sector, which is responsible for 40% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, so additional work will be needed to achieve this modest goal. Still, Obama's announcement today is the single most aggressive action any U.S. president has ever taken to reduce climate change, and will put the U.S. in a leadership position during the crucial December 2015 negotiations in Paris intended to forge a new legally binding global climate change treaty.
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