The White House has released the final version of earth-shaking environmental regulations to battle climate change and drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions. President Obama himself called it the “biggest, most important step ever taken” to protect the planet and move us toward renewable sources of energy. The proposed regulations are stronger versions of rules announced by the Environmental Protection Agency during the last three years and call for a 32-percent cut in power plant emissions within the next 15 years. The President has declared his intention to see these regulations adopted by the United States before he leaves office in 2016 and ensure that climate change will “not be a problem” for future generations, according to Saturday’s Facebook video.
Besides regulating power plants, the new rules push utility companies to invest heavily in renewable energy such as solar and wind power. The bill also expects each state to reduce the carbon footprint from their power sources and assigns them a target for doing so, based on the conditions unique to each state. The states have until 2018 to submit their custom plan for reducing carbon-emissions produced locally from power sources and are expected to transition off coal-fired plants completely in coming years.
If states fail to live up to these responsibilities, the federal government will design a plan for them. It seems to be the ideal balance between a centralized approach and a states’ rights approach.
Environmentalists are cheering the new EPA proposals and praising the Obama administration for their forward-thinking plan for the country. Meanwhile, America’s major power companies, commercial energy consumers, and the coal and oil energy lobbies, are not. The proposed climate regulations have set off a fire-storm of controversy with many lawsuits already in the works to battle them. Pundits are estimating lawsuits will be filed against the new regulations in at least half of the states in the nation and that some of them will wind up going all the way to the Supreme Court.
In other words, it’s the usual backlash we see any time we attempt baby steps toward progress.
Those who oppose the adoption of the rules maintain that such government regulation will be bad for the economy and stretch the nation’s power grid too thin. They also suggest that it is illegal and expensive, with coal mining states leading the charge. America’s single largest source of carbon pollution comes from coal-fired power plants, and legislatures in those states have called the Obama’s EPA rules a “war on coal.”
Although no longer referred to as interstate cap-and-trade systems by the Obama administration, the most recent regulations are merely a re-writing of the same concept introduced in 2012. Basically, businesses and industries would be required to pay for the pollution they generate through the use of carbon-use permits and credits. If the new regulations make it past the barrage of lawsuits expected to be filed against them, most states will be required to enact some form of the cap-and-trade tax on energy-consuming businesses before 2018.
The new rules will also reward states and businesses that take part in the cap-and-trade programs being offered there. Although they are not required to comply with the proposed regulation until 2022, states and power companies that begin to cut their carbon pollution will be given financial compensation in the form of “carbon reduction credits” that can be used in interstate cap-and-trade programs. Those that do not comply with the climate regulations by 2022 will be significantly fined into compliance or closure.
Climate control has been a bone of contention between the two parties since the introduction of the United States Clean Air and Water Act of 1970. Coal and Oil producing states fight to save their businesses, jobs, and towns as those energy sources go out of favor with the American public. Meanwhile, alternative energy producers strive to secure government funding and tax incentives to give renewable energy the leg up they insist it needs in a capitalist economy.
The debate continues with the Obama administration’s assertion that, contrary to the ravings of right-wing republicans and science deniers, the proposed EPA regulations could save American families money and make them healthier. The new rules require power plants to make a greater investment in renewable sources to lower alternative energy prices for the consumer. By reducing greenhouse gas emissions and, therefore pollution, fewer Americans will suffer from asthma, lung diseases, and other maladies attributable to poor air quality, which will reduce healthcare costs. Opponents however, insist that the rules will cost American businesses and families millions and is sure to cripple the U.S. economy.
Climate experts and environmental scientists have been sounding the alarm bell for decades and have now begun to warn of global disaster and destruction due to the warming of the planet. Some way we’re almost too late to reverse the trend.
Rising greenhouse gas emissions are predicted to raise Earth’s temperature between 6-8 degrees Fahrenheit by the year 2100 according to climatecentral.org. A weather change of that nature would cause devastating and irreversible rises in sea levels, causing ever-increasing storms, droughts and food and water shortages globally. The president’s new EPA rules will not completely halt the warming trend, but could help to prevent the worst effects of such changes. If the United States regulations are met with similar laws from the world’s other top economies, it is hoped that the planet, along with its food and water sources, can be saved for future generations before it’s too late. President Obama hopes to ensure the continuation of our planet and the human race with tougher, more stringent energy-consumption rules here and abroad before he leaves office.
The Average American Consumer might be forgiven for thinking that we’re not facing an energy crisis—after all, falling gas prices paint a rosy picture of oil reserves. But when it comes to those who hold public office, and whose job it is to have a more thorough understanding of what’s at stake, it’s unforgivable to downplay or ignore what we’re really up against.
Godspeed, and good luck, Mr. President—you’re going to need it.
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