New Bill Seeks to Erase Proposed Carbon Emissions Reduction

On Thursday, March 6th the House of Representatives voted on an override to the proposed Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rule limiting carbon emissions from new coal plants.

The Electricity Security and Affordability Act – HR 3826 passed the house with a primarily Republican vote (10 Democrats also voted for the bill).  Essentially, the provision nullifies the new EPA rule limiting carbon emissions from coal plants, which are nearly impossible to achieve using today’s technology.

The bill’s sponsor is Rep. Ed Whitfield (R- KY).  He opposes the new rule and says it will ensure a ban on new coal power plants.  He explained during a debate Wednesday, “In January of next year, it is anticipated that they will finalize a rule from EPA that will make it impossible to build a new coal-powered plant in America.  That is hard to believe that that can be the situation in our great country, particularly since 40 percent of our electricity comes from coal.”

Understandably, proponents of the rule to limit carbon emissions are not happy.  It is seen by many as a way for power plants to get around greenhouse gas regulations and avoid implementing carbon control technologies.  Without incentive or regulation to control our country’s greenhouse gas emissions, it seems logical that lower cost, polluting coal plants will continue to be constructed in lieu of more environmentally friendly technology, and that means cleaner, renewable technology will likely not advance in our country.

If this bill is successful and the EPA’s proposed carbon reduction rules become essentially null and void, the United States will be behind the times when it comes to clean energy technology.  Just because we get most of our energy from coal now, doesn’t mean it should continue on that way.  It is clear that clean and renewable energy is going to be more sustainable and economical in the future.  Do we really want to play catch-up with our energy resources?

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  • Jack Shortt

    Jessica Kennedy, the author of this blog, obviously believes we must save the earth by eliminating carbon emissions. And she does have plenty of help. Let’s address the issue.:
    The House of Representatives proposed legislation is an attempt to off set the currently proposed EPA regulation that would effectively ban all new coal plants. EPA is also proposing a second regulation that will force the shut down of the existing coal fired plants, thereby eliminating all coal fuelled power generation in the USA.. The premise is that most CO2 comes from burning coal for electric power production.
    To my knowledge, no other industrialized nation in the world is planning to take such extreme action, as is the federal EPA.
    In fact, the rest of the world is increasing the use of coal to generate electricity. Our (presumably well intended) elimination of coal fired power plants will actually be off set by a huge increase in coal / carbon emissions from the rest of the world.
    I have seen no analysis of the cost for eliminating coal fired generation. Nor have I seen any specific recommendation for alternative replacement of coal as a source of our electrical energy.
    It is quite foolish to remove the established source of energy with no specific plan for its replacement. And if we can be realistic; there is no benefit, no world wide reduction of carbon emissions.
    The real issue is access to prosperity; escape from poverty. Poverty is the current threat that most of the world is trying to mitigate. Low cost electrical power is an essential foundation for economic development. If you raise the cost of energy you raise the cost of everything. Nothing of economic value can be produced without energy. That is why the rest of the world is building coal fuelled power plants, and they are buying our coal to run them!
    Let us have a rational discussion that considers both sides of the argument. Poverty and public discontent vs global warming and bad weather.

  • Jessica Kennedy

    Hi Jack and thank you for your comment! You bring up some great points!
    While the US is trying to cut its coal fueled power plants – we are still exporting coal, and it is still being used & polluting the atmosphere. All countries share one atmosphere after all.
    There are other nations working toward renewable energy & cutting coal pollution – China is one – http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/09/12/us-china-coal-pollution-idUSBRE98B01N20130912
    India is building new solar generation as well, and much of Europe has been using renewable sources for new generation capacity. The effect on energy cost varies. In some cases it does increase price, and that is something we must solve. I think that as technology improves we will see renewable energy become cost competitive with traditional fossil fuels. The environmental disasters with coal ash and oil spills lately are costing huge amounts of money to deal with too. That will also end up raising energy bills across the board.
    Energy poverty is a big concern; especially for countries with remote populations that are essentially off the grid. In many cases, renewable generation turns out to be even more economical than building new fossil fuel power plants, or expanding infrastructure to reach isolated populations: http://www.renewableenergyworld.com/rea/news/article/2011/08/u-n-secretary-general-renewables-can-end-energy-poverty

    Poverty is a wonderful topic to introduce here, as climate change is expected to worsen the situation. The most vulnerable areas of the world to severe weather changes are also often the poorest. I think introducing solar, geothermal, wind power, etc. to these areas right off the bat instead of fueling them with coal will be the best benefit.