In 2007 the Supreme Court required the Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA, to determine whether greenhouse gases should be regulated under the Clean Air Act as an endangerment to public health. Then-President George W. Bush balked at enforcing the law despite the recommendations of the EPA administrator and agency scientists to do so. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson finally made the endangerment finding under President Obama in 2009. In 2012 EPA proposed a carbon-pollution standard for new, yet-to-be-built power plants. Hopefully, the president will call on EPA to take the next step and develop standards for carbon pollution from existing plants.
Power plants are the single-largest uncontrolled source of climate pollution, producing one-third of greenhouse-gas pollution in the United States, according to EPA. The World Resources Institute found that setting ambitious standards are the most important reduction measures to be taken in order to meet the 2020 goal. And the Natural Resources Defense Council found that a system of strong but flexible standards, along with state-led compliance mechanisms combined with existing reductions, would achieve three-quarters of the 17 percent reduction goal.
Brad Plumer explains why a renewed effort is necessary:
Over the past few years, U.S. carbon-dioxide emissions have been falling rapidly, thanks to the recession, improved energy-efficiency, and a shift from coal to natural gas. But those trends have bottomed out recently, and coal started making a comeback in 2013.
That means the United States is no longer on track to reduce its carbon-dioxide emissions 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020, as Obama pledged under the Copenhagen Accord. To hit that target, the White House report argued, new “policy steps” will be needed.
Meanwhile, Justin Guay and Vrinda Manglik see an opportunity for reform at American overseas investment agencies:
When it comes to clean energy, OPIC punches well above its weight, with over $1.6 billion in support to “renewable resources” last year alone. Better yet, it hasn’t supported a dirty coal plant in a decade.
The problem is OPIC can’t make up for the billions the administration’s other overseas investment agencies are providing to coal and other fossil fuels. It’s time the administration brought other agencies up to the OPIC clean energy standard and dropped coal finance for good.