Obama Environmental Plan Part of a 'War on Coal,' Executive Says

Image: Obama Environmental Plan Part of a 'War on Coal,' Executive Says

Monday, 02 Jun 2014 08:04 AM

By Melissa Clyne

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President Barack Obama’s scheduled announcement Monday that, by executive order, he is directing a substantial cut of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions is the official start of a "war on coal," an energy company executive told The New York Times.

"Whether President Obama wants to admit it or not, he has definitely declared a war on coal," according to Chris Faulkner, chief executive officer of Breitling Energy Corp., a Texas oil and gas company that stands to benefit from the Obama plan. "The era of coal is coming to an end. We are entering the era of natural gas."

Obama is proposing reducing greenhouse-gas emissions from the nation’s power plants by an average of 30 percent from 2005 levels by 2030. The new regulations will encourage the use of renewable energy sources, such as natural gas, and energy efficient technologies, alternative energy sources such as wind and solar power, as well as a cap-and-trade system, which lets companies emitting pollutants buy and sell greenhouse gas emission allowances, Bloomberg reported.

A national limit on coal plants, which currently produce 40 percent of America’s electricity and are the greatest source of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, is expected, according to a New York Times report last week. States will be encouraged to come up with ways to cut emissions, as well.

The president’s declaration comes five years after he proclaimed, on the world stage in Copenhagen, that the United States would substantially reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 2020.

While Monday’s proposal will aim to substantially reduce carbon dioxide emissions at power plants — a move pundits characterize as the most drastic climate change legislation by any U.S. president — the Times said that the "president’s plan will barely nudge the global emissions that scientists say are threatening the welfare of future generations."

"Is it enough to stop climate change? No," Ted Nordhaus, chairman of the California-based environmental think tank Breakthrough Institute, told the newspaper.

The president’s goal, according to the newspaper, is twofold: Win back the support of environmentalists who were disappointed that Obama was unsuccessful in creating cap-and-trade market in his first term; and to show that the United States is leading by example in hopes that other nations will follow suit.

"Mr. Obama’s effort is aimed not just at charting a new course inside the United States, but at reclaiming for the country the mantle of international leadership in battling climate change," Justin Gillis and Henry Fountain of the Times wrote. "If the policy coaxes more ambitious goals from other countries, experts say it could be a turning point."

The plan — which would take at least a year to be finalized — will steer the United States toward natural gas, something far more plentiful than ever before thanks to hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. Natural gas emits less than half the carbon dioxide as coal, though it still produces a significant amount of greenhouse gas emissions, according to the Times, which notes that the country will later have to figure out how to "wean itself off that fuel in the years to come."

Industry analysts say the president’s announcement may be the push needed to get both private capital and technology innovators — Wall Street and Silicon Valley — to invest money and research in energy. Both camps have held back because the United States lacked "a clear national policy."

"Once the rules are in place, then the engineers really are unleashed on the question of, oh, what’s the cheapest way to do this?" Kevin Kennedy, director of the United States Climate Initiative at the World Resources Institute, told the Times. "American engineers are pretty good at this sort of thing."

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