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By now, we know what to expect if we fail to act on climate disruption: more severe storms, wildfires, droughts, and destruction. To avoid that future, we have to make stopping carbon pollution a priority.

But at the same time, people are also realizing that this is more than an urgent challenge -- it's a fantastic opportunity. We have the chance to do something that's never been done: build a society that is 100 percent powered by clean energy. Instead of being daunted, we should be thrilled.

When he laid out his Climate Action Plan last summer, President Obama touched on both the challenge and the opportunity ("I want America to build that future"). Then, last month, the EPA unveiled one of the most important elements of that plan: proposed safeguards to reduce carbon pollution from new power plants. The new standards are a huge step toward meeting the challenge, but they also show that we still have a ways to go when it comes to seizing our historic opportunity.

The good news is that these safeguards set the first national limits on the amount of carbon pollution that can be emitted by coal-fired power plants, which are our single biggest source of that pollution. Tough standards for carbon pollution will not only address climate disruption but also prevent life-threatening air pollution like toxic mercury, dirty soot, and the smog that triggers asthma attacks, so this is really good news indeed.

The not-so-good news is that the standards reveal the current limits of President Obama's vision. Because the standards do nothing to reduce carbon pollution from natural-gas-fired power plants, they stop short of going "all in" on clean energy. By giving natural gas a free pass, the president's policies haven't really committed to a clean-energy future.

To reach that future, we (and the president) need to do more than move beyond dirty fuels like coal, gas, and oil. We need to move beyond pessimism -- the kind of thinking that limits our ambition and our willingness to fight for big ideas.

Once that happens, we'll have reached the true tipping point for clean energy. The change won't be linear: As we get bigger inventories of clean energy, the costs will come down and renewables will go head to head with fossil fuels everywhere -- and they'll win.

We're already seeing that begin to happen in places like Southern California, where a new gas plant was shelved because solar came in cheaper, and in Colorado, where the state's largest power provider plans to triple the amount of solar and wind that's coming online because it's cheaper and more reliable than gas or coal.

Although these carbon pollution safeguards will be a partial victory, the ground we gain will never be lost. That's the great thing about clean-energy progress. Once we leave fossil fuels behind, we will never go back. No one will tear down wind farms because they're nostalgic for fracking in our watersheds. People won’t rip off solar panels because they miss having mercury in their tuna or asthma inhalers for their kids.

Not only are the EPA's proposed new carbon pollution safeguards taking us a step closer to the future we want, they also are building momentum for another, even greater step: proposed carbon pollution protections for existing power plants, which are due in the middle of next year.

You can help. After a delay because of the federal government shutdown, the EPA has begun holding a series of listening sessions across the country to solicit "ideas and input from the public and stakeholders about the best Clean Air Act approaches to reducing carbon pollution from existing power plants." Find out here if there's a session near you. If there is, speak up! Let the EPA know that the only way to go "all in" on a clean-energy future is to put polluting fossil fuels behind us for good.

Originally posted to Michael Brune on Thu Oct 24, 2013 at 10:01 AM PDT.

Also republished by Climate Change SOS.

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Comment Preferences

  •  T'd R'd Republished to Climate Change SOS. (n/t) (0+ / 0-)
  •  Indeed, we need 2 counter clean-energy pessimism.. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Powered Grace

    ...even here, even among environmentalists.

    I had a lively discussion the other day with someone who was sure moving away from coal was only triggered by the natural gas fracking boom, and that renewables are "not ready for Prime Time."

    While NG definitely surged in 2010-2012, it is tapering off this year.

    The news from Southern California and Colorado are great, and indicate that solar+wind are now solidly in the Prime Time, even for conventional large-scale utility providers.

    Together with continual improvement in efficiency and conservation, renewable potential is more than enough to keep our society thriving.

    Thank you for the diary.

  •  Hell of a speech in Pittsburgh, THANKS! (0+ / 0-)

    And tell my friend Randy Francisco I send my best.

    powershift_1019b_0064.jpg

    Just your average every day Autistic hillbilly/biker/activist/union steward with an engineering degree.

    by Mentatmark on Thu Oct 24, 2013 at 11:21:26 AM PDT

  •  You said: (0+ / 0-)
    Tough standards for carbon pollution will not only address climate disruption but also prevent life-threatening air pollution like toxic mercury, dirty soot, and the smog that triggers asthma attacks, so this is really good news indeed.
    This is erroneous statement.

    The greenhouse gas emission standards have nothing at all to do with emissions of mercury, particulate matter and other criteria pollutants, so claiming that to be the case is totally erroneous.

    Michael Brune operationally needs to understand that he does not have the expertise of Carl Pope on the Clean Air Act and on air pollution control.  This means Brune should learn to rely on others who are experienced lawyers and scientists (Brune is not) prior to making public statements for the Sierra Club to vet statements for scientific and legal accuracy.

    The Sierra Club-proposed BREATHE Act is the primary example of the kind of trouble Brune/SC get into when they use Gasland and other non-scientifically defensible efforts to set national policy for the Sierra Club.

    The BREATHE Act is a study in unintended consequences, since it will lead to a multiple year nationwide deregulation of hydrogen sulfide from all industrial sources presently regulated by the Clean Air Act.

    LS  [current SC volunteer, past MI Chapter board member and SC member for 24 years]

  •  Can you give us some more information about (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JeffW
    in Colorado, where the state's largest power provider plans to triple the amount of solar and wind that's coming online because it's cheaper and more reliable than gas or coal.  
    the "more reliable" part?  Because one of the oft-mentioned arguments against renewables is that they are "intermittent", so knowing why the Colorado power company has decided that renewables are MORE reliable would be a useful counter-argument.  Thanks!

    "My country, right or wrong; if right, to be kept right; and if wrong, to be set right." -- Sen Carl Schurz 1872

    by Calamity Jean on Sun Oct 27, 2013 at 11:31:34 AM PDT

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