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Please begin with an informative title:

Gina McCarthy, EPA
Gina McCarthy calls clean energy an investment for a better economy not a drag on it.
The long-awaited draft rule designed to limit carbon dioxide at existing electricity-generating plants was rolled out with a barn-burner speech from Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy Monday morning. The expected myopic no-can-do barrage from the right, as well as two coal-state Democratic Senate candidates, began immediately. (Here is the rule in full. Here's an EPA fact sheet on the draft rule.)

Combining both a fire and a twinkle in her eyes, McCarthy said:

I know people are wondering: can we cut pollution while keeping our energy affordable and reliable? We can, and we will. Critics claim your energy bills will skyrocket. They’re wrong. Any small, short-term change in electricity prices would be within normal fluctuations the power sector already deals with. And any small price increase—think about the price of a gallon of milk a month—is dwarfed by huge benefits. This is an investment in better health and a better future for our kids. [...]

The critics are wrong about reliability, too. For decades, power plants have met pollution limits without risking reliability. If anything, what threatens reliability and causes blackouts is devastating extreme weather fueled by climate change. I’m tired of people pointing to the Polar Vortex as a reason not to act on climate. It’s exactly the opposite. Climate change heightens risks from extreme cold that freezes power grids, superstorms that drown power plants, and heat waves that stress power supplies. And it turns out, efficiency upgrades that slow climate change actually help cities insulate against blackouts.

Despite all that, there are still special interest skeptics who will cry the sky is falling. Who will deliberately ignore the risks, overestimate the costs, and undervalue the benefits.

On cue, there was Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell saying the rule "is a dagger in the heart of the American middle class, and to representative democracy itself.” With less hyperbole, his Democratic challenger, Alison Lundergan Grimes, who has strongly criticized Obama's coal policies, said in a statement that the proposed rule is "more proof that Washington isn't working for Kentucky."
"Coal keeps the lights on in the Commonwealth, providing a way for thousands of Kentuckians to put food on their tables," she said. "When I'm in the U.S. Senate, I will fiercely oppose the President's attack on Kentucky's coal industry because protecting our jobs will be my number one priority."
Please read below the fold for more on this story.
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In fact, the rule gives considerable flexibility to individual states to come up with their own plans to meet the mandated reductions. These can include cap-and-trade policies, mandated efficiency standards and requirements for percentages of how much energy will be generated from renewable sources as well as regulations of emissions.  

By 2030, the EPA rule would, it is estimated, reduce CO2 power-plant emissions by 30 percent over the 2005 baseline. The electricity sector produces 32 percent of the nation's total CO2 emissions, meaning that a 30 percent reduction from power plants would cut overall emissions by 10 percent over 2005.

While industry, Republicans, global warming denying pundits and coal-state Democrats will be arguing that the rule goes too far too soon, some environmental activists view it as far too little that isn't being implemented soon enough. Dave Doniger of the National Resources Defense Council says a 35 percent reduction by 2020 instead of 2030 would make for a better rule.

But it's not just the percentage of emissions reductions that's at issue on the environmental left.

As of 2012, CO2 emissions were already down nearly 15 percent, due mostly to an increase in natural gas production via hydraulic fracturing, a much-disputed method of prying fossil fuel from tight geologic formations. A good portion of further reduction is also likely to be achieved in the short run by moving from coal to natural gas. That's an approach the administration, most notably Department of Energy chief Ernest Moniz heartily approves of. And it's one that some environmental advocates say is very much the wrong approach.

While natural gas generates about half as much CO2 for an equivalent energy output as coal, the extraction process at some wells releases vast amounts of methane, a far more potent greenhouse gas in the short run than CO2. The EPA relies on industry statistics to show how much methane leaks. But on-the-ground, peer-reviewed studies in three basins—Colorado, Utah and California—have shown that the actual methane releases are much more than what industry claims.

Methane only makes up about nine percent of all greenhouse gases, but over 20 years it is 86 times as potent in generating global warming as CO2. For fracking critics, that's just one more reason making use of natural gas as a transition fuel to cleaner energy is a bad idea.

The announcement of the draft emissions rule begins a 120-day public comment period. The EPA will subsequently review those as well as deal with industry lobbying, lawsuits and the dense fog of propaganda already issuing from those who want to squelch the rule altogether, not make it stronger. The rule is slated to be finalized next June, with the deadline for state plans of compliance set for June 2016.

Extended (Optional)

Originally posted to Meteor Blades on Mon Jun 02, 2014 at 10:17 AM PDT.

Also republished by DK GreenRoots, Climate Change SOS, Kitchen Table Kibitzing, and Daily Kos.

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