The initiatives to curb climate change that President Barack Obama plans to unveil will include the first limits of carbon emissions from existing power plants, according to a person familiar with the plans.
“I’ll lay out my vision for where I believe we need to go: a national plan to reduce carbon pollution, prepare our country for the impacts of climate change, and lead global efforts to fight it,” Obama said yesterday on the social media outlets YouTube and Twitter. “This is a serious challenge, but it’s one uniquely suited to America’s strengths.”
Obama didn’t offer further details of his plan, which marks an attempt by the president to fulfill promises he made at the start of his second term to tackle the pollution blamed for global warming. The president said he’ll make the announcement June 25 at Georgetown University.
The measures will include limits on carbon emissions from existing power plants, according to a person familiar with the White House’s plans who spoke on the condition of anonymity in advance of the address.
The administration has proposed limits on greenhouse gases for new plants. Seeking bolder action, environmentalists have lobbied the administration to also place restrictions on the plants already burning fossil fuels that account for about 40 percent of the annual release of carbon emissions in the U.S.
“Combating climate change means curbing carbon pollution - - for the first time ever -- from the biggest single source of such dangerous gases: our coal-fired power plants,” said Frances Beinecke, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, in an e-mail yesterday. “We stand ready to help President Obama in every way we can.”
Restrictions on carbon emissions will probably be opposed by coal producers including Peabody Energy Corp. (BTU:US) in St. Louis as they would probably lead more utilities to switch to cleaner sources of power, including natural gas and wind power. Coal users including American Electric Power Co. (AEP:US), which is based in Columbus, Ohio, and Southern Co. (SO:US) in Atlanta have argued regulations limiting coal use could raise consumer energy costs.
Environmentalists, many of whom have expressed disappointment with Obama’s record so far on climate change, said they would be watching closely on Tuesday.
“The world desperately needs climate leadership, and today Barack Obama showed he might turn out to be the guy who provided it,” said Bill McKibben, a co-founder of 350.org, a group that advocates for steps to combat global warming.
Word of Tuesday’s address is “very big news, and we are eager to hear what the president has to say,” Fred Krupp, president of the Environmental Defense Fund, said in an e-mail. “He knows that addressing climate change is not only an obligation we have to the next generation, but something we owe ourselves.”
Heather Zichal, Obama’s top energy adviser, said June 19 that the administration’s plans would include measures that don’t require congressional action, such as setting energy-efficiency standards for appliances, clean-energy production on public lands and regulations to curb carbon-dioxide emissions from power plants.
The administration will also pursue more solar and wind installations on public lands, Zichal said.
Obama is facing increasing pressure from environmentalists, former staff members and Democratic donors to reject the proposed TransCanada Corp. (TRP) Keystone XL pipeline, a $5.3 billion pipeline that would carry oil from Canada’s tar sands to refineries along the Gulf of Mexico. Opponents say the proposal would increase greenhouse-gas emissions.
Obama is prepared to take action if Congress doesn’t, according to spokesman Jay Carney. Obama has directed his cabinet to come up with executive actions to reduce pollution and speed the transition to more sustainable sources of energy, Carney said during a White House briefing June 21.
An administration-backed effort to pass a market-based system to price carbon dioxide failed in the Senate during Obama’s first term, after the White House made votes on the health care law a priority. The collapse of that bill disappointed environmentalists, who’d pushed the president to take up the issue sooner.
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