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Tuesday, January 4, 2011

President Obama uses EPA to address climate change

For the first time, the federal government is about to regulate greenhouse gasses from factories and fossil fuel power plants – two large industrial sources, representing nearly 40 percent of the GHG pollution in the U.S. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued its plan for establishing greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution standards in 2011 under the Clean Air Act.

“These standards will help American companies attract private investment to the clean energy upgrades that make our companies more competitive and create good jobs here at home,” Administrator Lisa Jackson said.

Several states, local governments and environmental organizations sued EPA over the agency’s failure to update the pollution standards for fossil fuel power plants and petroleum refineries. Under this new agreement, EPA will propose standards for power plants in July 2011 and for refineries in December 2011 and will issue final standards in May 2012 and November 2012, respectively.

The Clean Air Act requires EPA to set industry-specific standards for new sources that emit significant quantities of harmful pollutants. These standards, called New Source Performance Standards (NSPS), set the level of pollution new facilities may emit and address air pollution from existing facilities.

Administration officials are treading lightly, fearful of stiff Republican resistance – some have likened the EPA to terrorists – and mindful of impacts on job creation and economic recovery. Representative Fred Upton, the Michigan Republican who is set to become chairman of the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee, said he was not convinced that greenhouse gases needed to be controlled or that the E.P.A. had the authority to do so. “This move represents an unconstitutional power grab that will kill millions of jobs –unless Congress steps in.”

Tim Phillips, president of Americans for Prosperity, a conservative group financed by Koch Industries and other oil companies, has spread skepticism about global warming.

William K. Reilly, administrator of the environmental agency under the first President George Bush, said the EPA is wedged between a hostile Congress and the mandates of the law, with little room to maneuver. But he also said that anti-E.P.A. zealots in Congress should realize that the agency was acting on laws that Congress itself passed, many of them by overwhelming bipartisan margins.

Dr. Grout’s comment:

So what is it going to take? The pro-business and pro-environment factions in Congress seem to be gearing up for World War Three over this one. Ironically, greenhouse gas emissions in the United States are already falling faster than any current legislative or regulatory proposal envisions, because of the recession-driven drop in demand for electricity.

What can you and I do? For one thing, look at our vehicles. We can always choose to buy a vehicle which gets better gas mileage. Car manufacturers do not make any money on our current gas guzzlers. The oil companies do, but that’s another story. Car manufacturers watch the bottom line. If they see a trend toward purchasing more energy-efficient cars, believe me, they will manufacture more energy efficient cars. Just look at the current marketplace.

OK, what do we do about the enormous economic clout of the oil producers? Follow the State of Texas which refuses to implement any of the federal legislation about clean air? The same State of Texas which has a cluster of autistic children that developed in direct proportion to the increase in their air pollution? If we love the State of Texas sufficiently to stay in it, then perhaps we go to court to force change. Or… we just get sick and blame it on something else. If we are not so tied to the State of Texas, then we can always vote with our feet. Change is difficult, but not impossible.

Just to dream a little… What if the government created better incentives so that oil producers put some of their enormous revenue into the development of clean technologies – wind, or water, or solar, or thermal power? We can always dream… In the meantime, there is ALWAYS a way out. You may have to look up at the ceiling to see the door out of the room in which you are trapped. But there is always a door. We just have to adjust our minds to see it.

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