Power plants annually add some two billion tons of carbon and other pollutants to the air. The EPA carbon rule would cap emissions at 1,000 pounds per megawatt-hour produced. An analysis by the Center for American Progress calculates that the new rule would reduce pollution emissions added from 22 pending new power plants by 123 billion pounds, a 56 percent decrease from what they would produce without the regulation.
Requiring new power plants to take steps to limit their carbon pollution will force them to “internalize” or account for pollution that they formerly emitted into the air for free. Previously, society bore the costs from these emissions such as extreme weather. These additional costs may make some proposed coal-fired power plants uneconomical, so they may be canceled.
The externalities that the EPA carbon standards would force the industry to "internalize" are truly horrific. Health costs, according to The New York Academy of Sciences: $62 billion a year. Climate change, the World Health Organization estimated three years ago, kills 150,000 people a year. Climate change also creates extreme weather events. In 2011, there were 14 of those with devastation estimated above $1 billion each.
Fifty bucks and lunch for a couple of hours work is a lot cheaper than buying congresspersons. Sen. James Inhofe, the Oklahoma Republican who has made a reputation for himself with his crusade claiming climate change is a hoax, has received $180,000 over the past four years from electric utilities. He's vowed to kill the carbon standard by bringing it up for a vote in the Senate.
On the other side, however, is real grassroots support for the carbon and mercury standards. At a "Rebel with a Cause" gala in Denver Thursday night, surprise guest Lisa Jackson, the EPA administrator, told the crowd about the hearings: “What’s really neat is the thousands of people who came because they care, the moms who came."
What's needed to make the standard a reality in the face of industry's millions are more people, moms and others, who pay for their own t-shirts.