On Monday, President Obama announced the final version of his major plan to combat climate change. The Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) new regulations for coal-burning power plants — the Clean Power Plan — will force states to meet reduced carbon emission standards based on their specific energy consumption, and include incentives for using renewable energy sources. In a video released by the White House on Twitter Sunday, President Obama called the plan the "biggest, most important step we've ever taken to combat climate change." He has high hopes for the plan, but what specific benefits will it provide?
Power plants are the largest source of carbon dioxide emissions in the U.S., according to the EPA, and the new regulations will apply to 1,000 coal-fired plants. When the plan is fully functioning in 2030, levels of carbon dioxide pollution from the power industry will ideally be 32 percent lower than they were in 2005. During a press conference call on Sunday, Gina McCarthy, administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, said: "Some special interest critics will tell you that it can't be done. They'll say we have to focus on the economy at the expense of the environment. They'll tell you EPA's plan will turn the lights off and send utility bills through the roof, but they are wrong."
So what does all this mean for Americans? Here are four tremendous benefits of the Clean Power Plan.
Cleaner Air For Everyone
The pollution that will be eliminated is equivalent to the annual emissions of 166 million cars, according to the EPA. The Clean Power Plan will not only cut carbon dioxide pollution, though. Transitioning to renewable energy sources will also reduce the amount of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide emitted. All of these pollutants lead to unhealthy soot and smog in the air we all breathe. "With this historic announcement, the United States is making clear that it is no longer acceptable to put unlimited amounts of climate pollution into our air,” said Fred Krupp, president of the environmental advocacy group Environmental Defense Fund, in a statement.
Fewer Premature Deaths
The EPA estimates that the cleaner air achieved by the plan will lead to between 1,500 and 3,600 fewer premature deaths each year. Long-term exposure to power plants' harmful emissions causes heart attacks, respiratory problems, and other medical issues. "Breathing healthy air is essential to life," said Harold P. Wimmer, president and CEO of the American Lung Association, in a statement. "The evidence is clear that climate change now harms lung health and public safety."
Lower Rates Of Asthma
The climate change plan is also expected to drastically lower the rate of asthma among American children, with an estimated 90,000 fewer asthma attacks each year. Currently, 6.8 million children across the country have asthma, which is a historic high.
Because cleaner air will dramatically benefit Americans' health, it's estimated that the Clean Power Plan will save the country between $34 billion and $54 billion each year. The energy reforms will also cut Americans' electricity bills by about seven percent each month in 2030. "We’ll get these savings by cutting energy waste and beefing up energy efficiency across the board ," McCarthy wrote in an article outlining what Americans need to know about the plan. "Steps that make sense for our health, our future, and our wallets."