The Obama administration recently released a new plan calling for more reductions in America’s carbon emissions from power plants. Obama called it the “single most important step America had ever taken in the fight against global climate change.” The Clean Power Plan seeks to increase required cuts in carbon emissions from the power sector. The goal is to slash emissions by 32% from recorded 2005 levels by the year 2030. It also calls for a national shift toward renewable energy, including solar and wind energy, and to move away from coal-fire power.
This policy has been under the works for years, and has chosen to focus on the energy sector because power plants account for 1/3 of America’s carbon pollution and is the largest source of carbon pollution in the county. The new plan is based on the idea that energy consumption can be reduced through consumer-side efficiency standards. It arguably will also push new technological advances in energy across industries in the future.
The Obama administration also did a good job framing the new plan. Instead of labeling it as a climate solution, which many people have become desensitized to, they made it a national issue and a human issue. The administration argues that the push to renewable and cleaner energy will help national security by making the U.S. less dependent on foreign energy, help to fix the economy, and will improve public health.
The Clean Power Plan leaves the concrete action of cutting emissions up to the states. Each state will be able to put its own plan together for cutting emissions which will be approved by the federal government in late 2016. This acknowledges that not every state is starting from the same place when it comes to emissions and energy, and that each state will most likely have to take its own technological path to reach the 2030 goal. There have been some concerns that giving the states the power to act will bog down any real solution through politicized debates on how the state can best achieve the overall goal.
Many industry groups and states that have relied on coal-based energy have voiced their own concerns and have vowed to challenge the new requirements made by the Clean Energy Plan. They argue that the new regulations will drive up energy prices, putting both affordability and reliability of the energy sector at risk.