Obama's new EPA rules are a modest start, US needs a clean-energy economy

Green Party candidates and leaders said that President Obama's new EPA regulations on carbon dioxide emissions from electricity generating power plants represented no more than a modest step forward against global climate change.
Greens reiterated the party's call for conversion to an economy based on clean renewable energy, with the added benefit of millions of new jobs. The president's plan also promotes more nuclear energy and natural gas extraction (fracking), which the Green Party opposes because of the danger they pose to public health and security.


"Reducing carbon pollution from electric power plants is a good start, but the goal must be phasing out coal, oil, and natural gas as our energy sources," said Howie Hawkins, Green candidate for Governor of New York (http://www.howiehawkins.org). "The EPA remains vulnerable to industry lobbies, with a negotiation process that will make enforcing emissions reduction difficult." (See Mr. Hawkins' article linked below)
Greens joined environmentalists in criticizing the new plan's reliance on an inflated 2005 baseline for the 30% reduction, calling it far too modest and a capitulation to industry lobbies. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions only 7% between now and 2030 is extremely inadequate, given the current level of knowledge about the effects of climate change, which include the Arctic melt and increasing extreme weather events:
"Relative to 2030 emissions projected from current trends, the drop in that year’s U.S. CO2 emissions sought by the President is a painfully modest 355 million tonnes (metric tons). That equates to just 7% of total actual emissions from all sources last year (5313 million tonnes)... [A]s of last year, demand and supply steps by industry, household and government had already wrought a 15% reduction in U.S. power plant emissions from the president’s 2005 base year (a drop of 361 million tonnes from 2414 million). By calling for only a second round of 15% cuts (355 million tonnes) from 2014 to 2030, the Obama plan in effect takes twice as long (16 years) to cut as much carbon pollution as the country just did (in 8 years, from 2005 to 2013)." (Charles Komanoff, "Next to Nothing for Climate in Obama Plan," June 2, http://www.carbontax.org/blogarchives/2014/06/02/next-to-nothing-for-climate-in-obama-plan/)
"The energy debate is too important to be left to Democrats, who prefer industry-friendly ideas, versus climate-change-denying Republicans. In comparison to the appalling irresponsibility of the GOP, President Obama's EPA rules are a godsend. In comparison to what we need to do, the new rules are a drop in the bucket," said Tim Willard, Green candidate for Montgomery County Council in Maryland (http://timforcouncil-mocogreens.nationbuilder.com).
"We can't ignore the health and infrastructure costs related to these emissions -- the costs of storm, drought, and flood damage caused by an increasingly destabilized climate. Instead of modest and ineffective regulations, Greens are offering smarter and more effective solutions than our industrial cash-dominated government is capable of," said Mr. Willard.
Greens listed the necessary steps to avert a climate-change catastrophe:
• Create a Clean Energy Economy: The U.S. must lead the world in converting to an economy based on 100% clean renewable energy, with massive public investment (and incentives for private investment) in new energy technologies, conservation, retrofitting homes and buildings, and expanding public transportation to reduce car traffic.
All of these will create millions of new jobs. Green Party candidates have promoted the Green New Deal, a plan to generate jobs and end debt through measures to alleviate the climate crisis (http://www.jillstein.org/green_new_deal). Germany has demonstrated that nations can use solar and wind power for most of their energy ("Germany Sets New Record, Generating 74 Percent Of Power Needs From Renewable Energy" by Kiley Kroh, May 13, http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2014/05/13/3436923/germany-energy-records/).
• Enact a Carbon Tax: A direct tax on the carbon content of fossil fuels (coal, oil, natural gas) will boost investment in clean renewable energy. The carbon tax should be combined with tax relief and dividends for businesses and households that convert to clean renewable energy.
"[P]ricing carbon needn’t result in onerous new costs for the economy. The revenue raised by the tax could be used to offset existing obligations, going towards some combination of deficit reduction; cuts to payroll, income, or corporate taxes; or, as in the case of British Columbia, simply giving people a check at the end of the year which helps to avoid regressive impacts on poor and/or retired populations. These methods keep the tax revenue neutral, making it more of a reshuffling rather than a new imposition." (Ryan Gerlach, "Can a Carbon Tax Calm the 'War On Coal?,'" May 31, http://citizensclimatelobby.org/guest-commentary-ryan-gerlach-future-500)
• Aim for Independence from Fossil Fuels, Not Domestic Energy Independence: President Obama's "all of the above" strategy to achieve domestic energy independence is inconsistent with fighting climate change. Tar sands oil extraction, hydrofracking, offshore drilling in U.S. coastal waters, and mountaintop detonation mining should be phased out as quickly as possible. Proposals for the Keystone XL and other pipelines should be rejected. Nuclear power, heavily subsidized and posing numerous security and public health threats, should also be phased out, especially in the wake of the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster.
The U.S. will become far more "energy independent" through renewable energy than from North American fossil-fuel extraction and nuclear power. Implementing clean renewable energy technologies, which tend to localize energy production (e.g., solar panels on homes and buildings), will lead to something more valuable than energy independence: energy democracy.
• Reject Emissions Trading: Cap-and-trade schemes allow polluting industries purchase permission to continue polluting.
"[B]y allowing states the option of using cap-and-trade and offsets, the administration has cut the legs out from under its own rule. Carbon trading is designed to benefit big corporate polluters. It lets industry decide for itself how to limit carbon emissions based on profit motive, and makes it cheaper for the dirtiest power plants to simply pay for permits instead of cleaning up pollution. The U.S. needs only look to the European Union (EU) for evidence that cap and trade fails to deliver on its promises. The EU’s Emissions Trading System (ETS) for carbon – the largest and longest-running in the world – has been fraught with problems, including corporate giveaways, gaming by the energy industry, volatile carbon prices, and fraud." (Joint statement by Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter and Institute for Policy Studies Climate Policy Program Director Janet Redman: "EPA's Carbon Rule Falls Short of Real Emissions Reduction," June 2, http://www.commondreams.org/view/2014/06/02-5)
See also:
"What's Wrong with Cuomo's Energy Plan?"
By Howie Hawkins and Steve Breyman
(Mr. Hawkins serves as Full Employment Council, Vice Chair in the Economy Branch of the Green Shadow Cabinet and is the Green nominee for Governor of New York. Mr. Breyman serves as Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency in the Ecology Branch of the Green Shadow Cabinet.)
"What Angers Environmentalists About Obama’s Global-Warming Rule"
By Clare Foran, National Journal, June 2, 2014
"Obama Climate Proposal Will Shift Industry Foundations"
By Mark Chediak and Jim Polson, Bloomberg News, June 2, 2014
"Doh! We goofed. And other fallout on nukes/climate issue + poll"
GreenWorld, June 5, 2014
People's Climate March: New York City, September 20-21


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