With the direction and executive authority of President Obama, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) yesterday released the Clean Power Plan, which cuts the carbon pollution from existing power plants that create 38% of the nation’s total carbon emissions. The plan is meant to cut carbon emission from the power sector nationwide by 30% below 2005 levels, which is equal to the emissions from powering more than half the homes in the United States for one year. The proposal is meant to protect public health and fight climate change, moving the nation towards a cleaner environment. The EPA, in its press release, proposes that this new plan will ‘sharpen America’s competitive edge, spur innovation and create jobs’.
Critics of the new plan, however, assert the exact opposite. Senators from republican states complain that the Clean Power Plan will result in massive job loss and increase in electricity prices affecting the economy to a large extent. States that are largely dependent on coal power plants will hurt the most. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce estimates that the new regulations will cost the economy $50 billion a year. Environmental advocates claim that the critics are mostly exaggerating the effects of the newly proposed plan and that the results of these carbon cuts will mostly be positive. The EPA too holds the new plan as beneficial to job growth in the economy, as well as a decrease of 8% on electricity bills nationally by 2030. The new regulations set the US on track to meet its target set forth by the United Nations. The EPA expects 30% of U.S. electricity mix to come from coal in 2030 which is a decrease of about 10% from current standards.
How the Clean Power Plan will affect the renewable energy market is more difficult to ascertain. With the limit of carbon emissions the resulting loss in revenue would possibly mean a rise in the price of electricity in the short run. This rise could in effect make alternate sources of electricity more attractive to consumers but that is likely to depend on the actual increase of the prices and the availability of renewable sources. As a highly available alternative, solar energy could be more in demand as a result of the new regulations, opening up more job opportunities in the industry, especially for workers that might potentially be laid off of power plants. Investments in wind and solar also create three times as many jobs as investments in fossils fuels, so it is beneficial for the economy as well.
Overall, a decrease of 10% in electricity reliability on coal power plants over a little more than 15 years is obviously too low. It is however, a step in the right direction and could be a very important plan in the realm of environmental protection. A 30% decrease is not a huge barrier for power plants but it could mean that new plants are less likely to pop up. This new plan will certainly leave environmental advocates hopeful for the future of the planet. It is especially good that EPA decided to focus on power plants, which are the largest source of carbon pollution, instead of tackling some less potent dangers. In a planet now, where disruption of of climate change is more and more apparent, a move like this was necessary.