“Our nation’s energy sector generates one third of U.S. carbon dioxide emissions, and carbon dioxide accounts for about 84% of U.S. greenhouse gases (GHGs), making it the nation’s largest contributor to climate change.” ~Southern Alliance for Clean Energy
Perhaps you’ve heard of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s proposed Clean Power Plan. However, if you follow network news and/or popular political blogs, you’ve more likely heard it referred to as the “war on coal,” EPA’s “job-killer,” or even “The most expensive regulation ever.”i
What is this controversial proposed Clean Power Plan? In the EPA’s own words,
On June 2, 2014, EPA proposed a commonsense plan to cut carbon pollution from power plants. States, cities and businesses across the country are already taking action to address the risks of climate change. EPA's proposal builds on those actions and is flexible - reflecting that different states have a different mix of sources and opportunities, and reflecting the important role of states as full partners with the federal government in cutting pollution. This proposal will maintain an affordable, reliable energy system, while cutting pollution and protecting our health and environment now and for future generations.ii
(You can read more about the Clean Power Plan via this handy EPA Fact Sheet.)
This wouldn’t be the first time an affected industry – in this case, those who profit from fossil fuels like oil, coal, and natural gas – cried that the sky was falling from environmental regulation. In fact, previous war-on, job-killing, most-expensive-ever-regulations failed to make a blip on U.S. productivity – unlike, say, the 2008 global financial crisis:
The truth is, we cannot afford not to regulate power plant emissions.
As Green Blog summarizes two new reports by the European Environment Agency (EEA), “Air pollution in Europe cost society up to €189 billion (about US $235 billion) in 2012 alone, the European Environment Agency (EEA) said in a new assessment report. Over the period 2008-2012 the estimated cost was at least €329 billion and possibly up to €1053 billion.”iii In China, it’s more like nuclear winter.iv In the U.S., “A 2010 study by the Clean Air Task Force estimated that air pollution from coal-fired power plants accounts for more than 13,000 premature deaths, 20,000 heart attacks, and 1.6 million lost workdays in the U.S. each year. The total monetary cost of these health impacts is over $100 billion annually.”v
Of course, it is not just human lives, but the very biosphere itself that is endangered by CO2 emissions. Climate change is a major factor influencing Earth’s Sixth Great Extinctionvi – an impact of literal asteroid-sized proportion – including the global warming’s evil twin, ocean acidificationvii and “deader” dead zones.viii
So if coal, oil, and other fossil fuels need to be phased out, what is the best way to power the economy while reducing dangerous greenhouse gas emissions from power plants? I will address that in my next article, but here is a hint.
Kyle G. Crider (MPA, LEED AP ND) is a professional science and sustainability “story teller.” In his spare time he is pursuing his Ph.D. in Interdisciplinary (Environmental Health) Engineering and traveling the highways and by-ways of home state with his wife Beverly in search of fact, fiction, and folklore for Strange Alabama.
- i http://grist.org/politics/politicos-normal-awful-story-on-epas-new-air-rule/
- iv http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/feb/25/china-toxic-air-pollution-nuclear-winter-scientists
- v http://www.rmi.org/RFGraph-health_effects_from_US_power_plant_emissions
- vii http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/campaigns/endangered_oceans/index.html
- viii http://www.onearth.org/earthwire/devil-deep-blue-sea