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White House To Present Plan For Reducing Carbon Dioxide Emissions From Coal-Fired Power Plants

Emissions: Proposal to address climate change will be politically contentious

by Jeff Johnson
May 30, 2014 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 92, Issue 22

President Barack Obama on June 2 will present his scheme for lowering carbon dioxide emissions from the nation’s coal-fired power plants. Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency proposal under the Clean Air Act is part of his plan to address climate change, which he announced a year ago.

The proposal is critical to greenhouse gas reduction because coal-fired power plants are responsible for 40% of U.S. CO2 emissions. Coal serves as the primary source of U.S. electricity, generating a 39% share. However, coal’s contribution to electricity supply is in decline, dropping from a recent high of 50% because of the growing use of natural gas and renewable energy.

The proposal is anticipated to rely on energy efficiency, with incentives for utilities and consumers. It is likely to encourage carbon cap-and-trade programs similar to those operating in the Northeast and California. The proposal is expected to influence ongoing international negotiations on a new global climate-change treaty.

Obama has said the plan will be made final within a year. Litigation against it is almost guaranteed.

In the weeks before the announcement, battle lines were being drawn. For instance, the U.S. Chamber of ­Commerce, a business group, estimated the proposal would cost the nation $50 billion per year through 2030. The World Resources Institute, an environmental think tank, claimed the U.S. can easily reduce CO2 through existing policies. Some in Congress threatened to derail or stall the proposal.


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