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EPA Will Reportedly Revoke Obama's Clean Power Plan

Is the plan actually necessary for bringing emissions down?

PowerplantEmissionsGKDreamstimeG.K./DreamstimeThe Environmental Protection Agency reportedly plans to repeal and replace the Clean Power Plan (CPP). No doubt that sounds like a big deal: The CPP, an Obama-era initiative to cut the electric power industry's carbon dioxide emissions to 32 percent below their 2005 levels by 2030, sits at the center of the Obama administration's effort to fulfill its pledges under the Paris Agreement on climate change.

It sounds like a big deal, but it probably isn't. With or without the CPP, a different force may be pushing the power sector to reduce emissions by nearly that much: low natural gas prices.

Here's the background. In 2007, the Supreme Court ruled that the Environmental Protections Agency (EPA) has the authority to regulate carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act. The Obama EPA then issued a finding that current and projected "concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere threaten the public health and welfare of current and future generations." The CPP restrictions were promoted as a way to mitigate these harms.

In an unprecedented move, the U.S. Supreme Court issued in February 2016 a stay halting implementation of the CPP until lower courts had resolved the lawsuits filed by 27 states opposing the regulation. Now EPA chief Scott Pruitt has reportedly decided not to try to overturn the endangerment finding, and is instead launching a rulemaking process that aims to replace the CPP with less onerous requirements.

The Obama administration estimated that the CPP would yield $34 billion in annual climate and air pollution benefits at a cost of only $9 billion a year. In contrast, a NERA Economic Consulting study, commissioned by various industry groups, calculated that annual CPP compliance costs would average between $41 and $73 billion a year, swamping the negligible climate benefits of reducing future global warming by 0.02° Celsius. That's quite a difference, but as we know, partisans can get an econometric model to say whatever they want it to say.

But it may be beside the point. A 2016 analysis by the Congressional Budget Office compared the EPA's estimates with various other projections. M.J. Bradley & Associates, for example, calculated that even without the CPP, power sector emissions would drop by as much as 26 percent below 2005 levels, assuming that renewable energy subsidies remained in place. A new report from the International Energy Agency suggests that such subsidies aren't actually necessary, since the costs of renewable energy generation are falling so rapidly that they can out-compete conventional power production.

And in a study this year for The Energy Journal, researchers at Stanford and Purdue concluded that if low natural gas prices persist, carbon dioxide emissions in the power sector would fall 26 percent below their 2005 levels by 2030, even without the CPP.

In other words, the fate of the Obama plan may be largely irrelevant to the trajectory of carbon dioxide emissions in power sector. If so, the coming fight over the CPP will probably feature more symbolic posturing than substance.

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  • timbo||

    If the earth is no longer warming and polar bears are not in peril, why are we still taking about emissions?

    Is there any discussion in the government circles about sound allocation of capital?

  • timbo||

    Not forcing private enterprise to piss away millions adhering to onerous regulations and investments in things to prevent something that might happen down the road
    Or the bloated bureaucracy wasting tax dollars espousing and administrating a war against what is in essence a boogeyman

  • Tony||

    Which fat drunk on am radio gave you the idea that warming is no longer happening?

  • Philadelphia Collins||

    In the 1970s we were told the planet is cooling. When has earth's climate not been changing?

  • timbo||

    I don't need to be told to do things. That is reserved for zombie's like you that suck Rachel Maddow's dick.

    I am capable of deducing a logical conclusion. I'll believe in acc when one of their predictions comes true.

  • Bronson, Missouri||

    Reducing emissions to zero is not going far enough. Under my plan, we will mandate that energy plants produce "sustainable emissions" full of nutrients to support crop growth and with rotating seasonal scents like sugar cookies to promote collective joy. Doing this without a cost increase is not going far enough. We will mandate that this will be achieved at a 75% cost reduction.

  • Azathoth!!||

    So, scented CO2 fog machines?

    Niiice!

  • Rat on a train||

    The new plants will generate O2. Unfortunately our energy demands would pump so much O2 into the atmosphere that everything would burn.

  • JSpey||

    +1 electrolytes

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    ...a different force may be pushing the power sector to reduce emissions by nearly that much: low natural gas prices.

    Full disclosure: I have been fracked, and I was going to be mined. The mining fell through (which is good because I didn't have coal rights) and the gas isn't being pumped very fast because (I assume) of a natural gas glut. I don't see many royalties these days.

    So the fracking saved me from going from having no neighbors to having a coal tipple as my only neighbor.

  • Colossal Douchebag||

    Fracking has changed the world, and it's nowhere near done.

  • Juice||

    It would have been one of those situations where the policy was enacted, then target of the policy changed for the better, and the policy was given full credit even though it was going to happen anyway.

  • Citizen X - #6||

    See also: government, most of

  • Colossal Douchebag||

    You spelled "all" wrong

  • Citizen X - #6||

    No, i intentionally left out the rest of the time, when a government policy actively makes things worse.

  • Rebel Scum||

    Is the plan actually necessary for bringing emissions down?

    No. But that hasn't stopped my lefty gf's lefty aunt from making comments suggesting the EPA doesn't functionally exist anymore because Trump, or something.

  • BYODB||

    I'd mention the EPA screwing up Colorado Rivers during Obama's tenure and ask if that was because of Obama.

  • Uncle Jay||

    RE: EPA Will Reportedly Revoke Obama's Clean Power Plan
    Is the plan actually necessary for bringing emissions down?

    1. The EPA doesn't care if Obama's Clean Power Plan works or not. That's not the point. The point is to have more control over all us little people by an unnecessary, onerous and power hungry federal agency who want to micormanage our meaningless and pathetic lives.
    2. I doubt that Trump will keep his campaign pledge to eliminate the EPA and let the states handle their own environmental problems because the eunuchs in the GOP don't possess the balls to terminate, or at least, de-fund the EPA.

  • FreeRadical||

    Oh, look at all that terrible polluting steam coming out of those "smoke" stacks.

  • Old Mexican's Speedos||

    It sounds like a big deal, but it probably isn't. With or without the CPP, a different force may be pushing the power sector to reduce emissions by nearly that much: low natural gas prices.


    Don't talk to me about that. Natural Gas comes from fraking and that causes earthquakes! (The principal at my son's school told me that.)

    What we need to do is ween ourselves from fossil fuels once and for all, towards unicorn farts(*)!


    (*) Mass sterilizations, mass murder, state-sponsored slavery and other Marxian wet-dreams.

  • BYODB||


    A new report from the International Energy Agency suggests that such subsidies aren't actually necessary, since the costs of renewable energy generation are falling so rapidly that they can out-compete conventional power production.


    I don't believe this for a single solitary second.

  • Miner49er||

    Climate change is a false premise for regulating or taxing carbon dioxide emissions. Political leaders who advocate unwarranted taxes and regulations on fossil fuels will be seen as fools or knaves. Nature converts CO2 to limestone. Climate change may or may not be occurring, but is NOT caused by human fossil fuels use. Temperature changes cause changes in ambient CO2.

    There is no empirical evidence that fossil fuels use affects climate. Likely and well-documented causes include sunspot cycles, earth/sun orbital changes, cosmic ray effects on clouds and tectonic plate activity. The further point here is that earth naturally recycles all carbon dioxide.

    Fossil fuels emit only 3% of total CO2 emissions. 95% comes from rotting vegetation and other sources. All the ambient CO2 in the atmosphere is promptly converted in the oceans to calcite (limestone) and other carbonates, mostly through biological paths. CO2 + CaO => CaCO3 (exothermic). The conversion rate increases with increasing CO2 partial pressure. A dynamic equilibrium-seeking mechanism.

    99.84% of all carbon on earth is already sequestered as sediments in earth's crust. The lithosphere is a massive hungry carbon sink that converts ambient CO2 to carbonate almost as soon as it is emitted.

    The Paris Treaty is now estimated to cost up to to $100 trillion -- $13,333 per human being. Nearly two-thirds of humanity's cumulative savings over history. And will not affect climate at all.

  • p3orion||

    "The Paris Treaty is now estimated to cost up to to $100 trillion -- $13,333 per human being."

    Well, that's the per capita cost, but it won't be distributed evenly. As the eeevil Americans, we'll be asked to pay the lion's share.

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