History shows that Obama’s clean power plan can work Economically and there is really no reason Why the Clean Power Plan won’t work.
That is except for political intransigence.
By the mid-1980s, we saw a growing environmental threat to North America’s area forests and natural ecosystem beauty because more and more trees were dying from acid rain, a form of pollution caused by sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides that were spewing from coal-fired power plants in America.
A decade or so later, the trees had stopped dying.
An environmental disaster had been averted.
What had happened?
The answer was that the administration of President George H.W. Bush, working hand in glove with the Environmental Defense Fund, devised a market-based plan, now known as cap-and-trade, to reduce sulfur-dioxide emissions. Congress passed it in 1990. The brilliance of the scheme is that while it set emissions targets, it did not tell power companies how to meet those targets, allowing them a great deal of flexibility. It also provided a financial incentive: Companies that cut their pollution beyond their caps could trade their leftover emission allowances to companies that were having trouble staying under the limit.
Industry officials and many state officials complained bitterly about the new system, saying it would be costly and tie companies up in regulatory knots. But that’s not what happened. “Industry had incentive to innovate,” recalls Fred Krupp, the president of the Environmental Defense Fund. Today, average levels of sulfur-dioxide pollution are 76 percent lower than they were in 1990.
The cost has been far less than the critics feared.
We’ve done the same with PCBs, and more recently with CFCs the chlorofluorocarbons widely used for cooling our engines, refrigeration, for our AC systems, and for aerosol propellants, as with other highly polluting chemicals, that shattered the atmosphere and caused the Ozone hole, and many more damages in our Earth’s protective atmospheric Ecosystems.
For nearly a billion years, ozone molecules in the atmosphere have protected life on Earth from the effects of ultraviolet rays. The ozone layer resides in the stratosphere and surrounds the entire Earth. UV-B radiation (280- to 315- nanometer (nm) wavelength) from the Sun is partially absorbed in this layer. As a result, the amount of UV-B reaching Earth’s surface is greatly reduced. UV-A (315- to 400-nm wavelength) and other solar radiation are not strongly absorbed by the ozone layer. Human exposure to UV-B increases the risk of skin cancer, cataracts, and a suppressed immune system. UV-B exposure can also damage terrestrial plant life, single cell organisms, and aquatic ecosystems.
However in the past 60 years or so human activity has contributed to the deterioration of the ozone layer.
In 1984 British Antarctic Survey scientists, Joesph Farman , Brian Gardiner, and Jonathan Shanklin, discovered a recurring springtime Antarctic ozone hole . Their paper was published in Nature , May 1985, the study summarized data that had been collected by the British Antarctic Survey showing that ozone levels had dropped to 10% below normal January levels for Antarctica.
The ozone “hole” is really a reduction in concentrations of ozone high above the earth in the stratosphere. The ozone hole is defined geographically as the area wherein the total ozone amount is less than 220 Dobson Units. The ozone hole has steadily grown in size (up to 27 million sq. km.) and length of existence (from August through early December) over the past two decades.
After a series of rigorous meetings and negotiations, the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer was finally agreed upon on 16 september 1987 at the Headquarters of the International Civil Aviation Organization in Montreal.
The Montreal Protocol stipulates that the production and consumption of compounds that deplete ozone in the stratosphere–chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), halons, carbon tetrachloride, and methyl chloroform–are to be phased out by 2000 (2005 for methyl chloroform). Scientific theory and evidence suggest that, once emitted to the atmosphere, these compounds could significantly deplete the stratospheric ozone layer that shields the planet from damaging UV-B radiation.
Man-made chlorines, primarily chloroflourobcarbons (CFCs), contribute to the thinning of the ozone layer and allow larger quantities of harmful ultraviolet rays to reach the earth.
On Monday afternoon, President Obama unveiled his Clean Power Plan, formalizing some tough new rules from the Environmental Protection Agency that are aimed at reducing the carbon emitted by power companies. There is no bigger source of carbon pollution; the goal is that by 2030, carbon emissions will be reduced by 32 percent from their 2005 level. In the fight against climate change, nothing is more important.
Once again, opponents are up in arms, forecasting calamity for the utility industry if the rules are allowed to stand, with at least a dozen states planning to sue the EPA. The attorney general of West Virginia, Patrick Morrisey, has said the regulations would lead to “reduced jobs, higher electricity rates” and increased stress on the power grid. Mississippi’s Republican governor, Phil Bryant, described the EPA plan as “burdensome.”
And then there’s Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, whose state, Kentucky, is in the heart of coal country. He has openly called on states to defy the EPA. On Monday, he described the new rules as “a triumph of blind ideology over sound policy and honest compassion.”
But just as with the acid-rain controversy, the opponents of the new emission-reduction rules have it exactly backward. The EPA rules have a far greater chance of creating jobs, being less burdensome and epitomizing sound public policy than the opposite.
The single most important fact about the new regulations is that they don’t tell utilities how to get their emissions down. Instead, they allow the states flexibility to figure out how to lower their own emissions. Some may choose a cap-and-trade system — as California and nine states in the Northeast have already done to great effect. (In California, for instance, carbon intensity — the amount of carbon pollution per million dollars of gross domestic product — is down 23 percent from 2001, while its GDP has grown.) They can stress energy efficiency or renewable energy. They can offer incentives to push innovations that would make carbon capture more affordable, which would allow for the continued use of coal, still America’s most plentiful energy source. Or they can do all of the above. Since many of these things are already happening, the new government policy is really just giving industry an extra shove in the right direction.
In his 2010 book, “The Climate War,” Eric Pooley, the former managing editor of Fortune who has since become the Environmental Defense Fund’s communication chief, notes that the whole time officials at the fund were working on cap-and-trade to solve the acid rain problem, climate change was never far from their thoughts.
They wanted to prove, with sulfur-dioxide emissions, that a flexible, market-based system worked — and would work for carbon emissions as well.
And it will.
Basic Economics still works well.
Tomorrow we have to address the same issue for Policy to reduce Atmospheric Carbon and CO2 from all facets of Life…
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