In a harsh strike against climate change, President Obama revealed new Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations on Monday. His Clean Power Plan centers around power plants that use coal, and is meant to boost cleaner energy and cut the emissions of greenhouse gases. These rules are the final, more strict versions of guidelines that the EPA outlined in 2012 and 2014.
These measures come from Obama's 2014 pact with China's President Xi Jinping, in which he vowed that the United States would join China in substantially reducing carbon emissions. It's an appropriate partnership, given that the two countries are the largest emitters of carbon dioxide in the world. In a video posted on Saturday, Obama said, "Climate change is not a problem for another generation, not anymore.”
In his first term as president, Obama tried to get America on a cap-and-trade system that would allow corporations to barter their use of carbon emission. However, his video calls the new regulations "the biggest, most important step we've ever taken to combat climate change."
Obama's opponents have already expressed their disapproval of the plan. According to The New York Times, West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey said, "Once the EPA finalizes this regulation, West Virginia will go to court, and we will challenge it. We think this regulation is terrible for the consumers of the state of West Virginia. It’s going to lead to reduced jobs, higher electricity rates, and really will put stress on the reliability of the power grid."
Despite opposition, this announcement is a powerful move. Here are the highlights:
Reducing CO2 Emissions
The White House has the ambitious goal of cutting carbon dioxide emissions by 32 percent from 2005 levels by 2030. If the plan wins the expected legal battles, it could result in the closures of hundreds of coal-fired plants around the country.
The Economic Impacts
According to a White House fact sheet, the Clean Power Plan could create tens of thousands of jobs. It could save consumers $155 billion from 2020 to 2030, and the average American family nearly $85 a year on their energy bills in 2030.
Protecting Against Storms
The plan calls for research on the regions affected by Hurricane Sandy, and wants to use that information to better protect similarly vulnerable areas. The Hurricane Sandy Task Force created a plan that is being adopted for other areas.
Making Agriculture More Environmentally Conscious
Agriculture takes a definite toll on the environment. Obama hopes to "deliver tailored, science-based knowledge to farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners to help them understand and prepare for the impacts of climate change."
Combating Short-Lived Pollutants
Obama wants to reduce the use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), methane, and black carbon. These pollutants have a short lifespan in the atmosphere, but contribute to global warming and harm human health, according to the Climate and Clean Air Coalition.
Global Free Trade
Supporting Environmentally Friendly Hospitals
Hospitals, with their large amount of energy use and abundance of medical waste, also hurt the environment. The president wants to establish a public/private partnership to make the healthcare industry green.
Building Clean Energy Infrastructure
Obama argues for the reduction of carbon emissions from heavy-duty vehicles, such as commercial trucks, vans, and buses. According to the White House, they are currently the second-largest cause of greenhouse gas pollution within the transportation sector.
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