Obama Set to Release New Carbon Regulations

Image: Obama Set to Release New Carbon Regulations

Tuesday, 27 May 2014 08:32 AM

By Melissa Clyne

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President Barack Obama is expected next week to announce Environmental Protection Agency-mandated cuts intended to reduce carbon pollution, according to The New York Times.

It’s the first time the government will regulate carbon dioxide emissions from 600 existing coal-fired power plants in the United States, the Times reported, adding that the announcement will be closely watched by governments around the globe.

"This standard is the real test of how serious the Obama climate action plan really is," according to Qi Ye, director of the Climate Policy Center at Tsinghua University in China, one of about six Chinese institutions directed by the Chinese government to scrutinize the new rule, Chinese experts told the Times.

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Obama could not get Congress to take action to address climate change during his first term, so he changed his tack and is using his executive authority under the 1970 Clean Air Act to issue the EPA regulation.

Last year, the president laid out a detailed, three-pronged Climate Action Plan that divided his blueprint into three categories: cutting carbon pollution in America, preparing the United States for the impacts of climate change, and leading international efforts to address global climate change.

"Today, we have limits in place for arsenic, mercury, and lead, but we let power plants release as much carbon pollution as they want — pollution that is contributing to higher rates of asthma attacks and more frequent and severe floods and heat waves," a June 25, 2013, White House news release states.

According to The Associated Press, coal is responsible for 40 percent of the country’s electricity. When it burns, coal releases toxic "soot and smog-forming chemicals, as well as twice the amount of carbon dioxide that natural gas produces."

The president’s announcement could mark the beginning of the end for coal, according to the AP, which notes that current rules are already predicted to close 68 coal plants in 20 states between 2014 and 2017, according to market analysis firm Bentek Energy.

Both domestically and internationally, the issue of climate change has historically been a political hot potato.

Last year, 135 members of Congress — including Republican Reps. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota and Dana Rohrabacher of California and GOP Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire — received "Climate Change Denier" unicorn trophies from Organizing for Action, a nonprofit that advocates on behalf of Obama’s agenda, The Huffington Post reported.

Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, Peru's environment minister, criticized Florida Sen. Marco Rubio — touted as a possible GOP candidate for president in 2016 — for being "skeptical of the science, even though we are already suffering the consequences of climate change," according to the Times.

In December, world leaders will hold a United Nations summit meeting in Lima, Peru, in hopes of drafting a treaty, to be signed in 2015, to legally bind the world’s major economies to cut their carbon pollution, according to the Times.

China is particularly interested in Obama’s announcement since, with the United States, it is the largest greenhouse gas polluter. Chinese officials have argued that the country should not be forced to take "carbon-cutting actions" since it is a developing economy. The Chinese also maintain that the United States should "go first," according to the Times.

In its effort to stymie global action on climate change, Saudi Arabia will also be monitoring the details. That country's government worries that its economy could suffer tremendously by a reduced demand for fossil fuels.

"Everyone knows that the U.S. is key to achieve any solution to the climate change crisis," according to Wael Hmaidan, director of a Lebanon-based advocacy group, Climate Action Network. "Many OPEC countries, who do not want to see the world wean itself from fossil fuels, realize this."

The issue is playing a pivotal role in this year’s midterm elections. Billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer and his super PAC NextGen Climate, are spending $100 million to defeat Republican "science deniers," according to CNN. Steyer wants to lay the foundation to make climate change a key issue in the 2016 presidential race.

Urgent: Do You Approve Or Disapprove of President Obama's Job Performance? Vote Now in Urgent Poll

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