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New EPA Rule For Dirty Power Plants Fuels Strange Debate

New EPA Rule For Dirty Power Plants Fuels Strange Debate

This is a guest post from Keith Gaby, climate communications director at Environmental Defense Fund.

In the downside-up Alice in Wonderland world of Congress, we are about to begin a debate about whether unlimited pollution is a good thing.

It will be triggered by the Obama administration’s historic announcement this week that for the first time, America’s fossil-fueled power plants will not be allowed to release limitless amounts of carbon pollution – a policy that will improve the chances our children and grandchildren will have a safe and healthy future.

No one, of course, will stand up and say they love pollution. But you’re about to hear elected officials and industry lobbyists talk very loudly about the calamity that will occur if we impose any restriction at all on carbon pollution from power plants.

Never mind that power plants are the largest source of this pollution, or that they cause major damage to our environment and our health. And don’t worry that up until now, there have been no national limits on them at all.

According to these folks, unless we allow companies to pollute as much as they want, we will face catastrophe.

Pollution is Bad. Period.

The new rule from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency would establish standards for carbon pollution from existing power plants, just as they have standards for soot, mercury and other pollutants. The rule is based on decades of science and will be proposed under authority granted by Congress through the Clean Air Act.

More importantly, it’s based on two pieces of basic common sense:

  • When there is no limit on pollution, you get a lot of pollution.
  • Pollution is bad.

It doesn’t seem to reassure the unlimited pollution crowd that every past effort to reduce air pollution has resulted in a net benefit for our economy as well as for our health. In fact, the benefits of most EPA Clean Air Act rules outweigh the costs by 30 to 1.

But as reliably as a humid summer in Washington, critics of the law will wildly overestimate the cost of complying with new pollution reduction rules. According to these folks, unless we allow companies to pollute as much as they want, we will face catastrophe.

The impacts of unlimited pollution are scary, as outlined in two recent scientific reports that outline the situation globally and in the United States. Kids will have more asthma attacks, storms will be more destructive and droughts will be more severe — not to mention a host of other dangerous problems that we’ll see.

Compare that future to one in which we have reasonable limits on carbon pollution. They won’t solve all of our problems, but they are a significant step forward. The new EPA rule will kick-start a transition to a clean-energy and low-carbon future, which will lead to economic and health benefits for everyone.

So next time someone tells you that limits on carbon emissions are a bad idea, ask if he or she thinks unlimited pollution is a responsible policy – and watch the person change the subject in a hurry.

It’s how these conversations usually end.

This article originally appeared on the EDF Voices blog and is reprinted with permission.

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Photo provided by EDF.

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93 comments

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9:18AM PDT on Jun 13, 2014

In Man vs. the Welfare State, Henry Hazlitt describes 20th century political developments in the United States as a series of usurpations:


As it has increased, it has also become concentrated in fewer and fewer hands. In America … the States have lost power to the Federal Government, and Congress to the President.”

In the last 75 years, like the power of Richard II’s throne was usurped, the Federal government (in all of its branches) has usurped nearly all the reserved powers of the people. A Constitutional charade.

Unlimited carbon emission is neither part of, nor a Federal mandate. Tax the market until change occurs. We all pay for the benefits this way.

7:06AM PDT on Jun 9, 2014

-- cont. --

1/3 of what Dan B. says actually sounds reasonable, but the rest is pure contrived nonsense and apologist-based fairytales. Keep reading what he has to offer on these threads, and THINK about what he is saying.....take his "Mom and apple pie" statement above....and THINK about what purpose such tripe serves.

In the meantime, if you please, I'll take him to task as I would any of the other Teatards that are stupid enough to use their free-speech rights.

7:05AM PDT on Jun 9, 2014

With apologies to Joe L., I must yet again point out that Dan B's last unresponsive and DEFLECTIONARY post shows once again why most on here consider him gumbo-for-brains and squirrel-crap-for-morals.

For example his latest "Mom and apple pie" spew about: "Life will continue on this planet. Future warming will only alter it, not eliminate it"........is NOT at all the issue. There is NO ongoing debate, scientific or political, about the continuance of life itself in the presence of high CO2 concentrations. This is yet another deflectionary strawman introduced in apologetic defense of the fossil fuel industry. Sophomorically pathetic.

What IS being debated is how HUMAN life, society, culture and geo-politics will be affected in the presence of high CO2 concentrations. This is a debate that most Teatards do not wish to engage in honestly, so instead they frantically avoid that debate by moving out of the political realm and attacking the science itself.....a move striking for its intellectual cowardice.

Joe L. -- Dan's sins have been well-documented on here in the past, and they go WAY, WAY!! beyond a mere confusion about the definition of pollution. I agree, "Dan B. is not a Jacob"; no, the tripe Dan B. sells is far more insidious. While Jacob wears his hyper-fealty to anything rightwing on his sleeve for all to see, Dan hides his behind an attempted aura of reasonableness. 1/3 of what he says actually sounds reasonable, but the rest is pure contrived nonsense a

8:18PM PDT on Jun 8, 2014

Thanks

6:49PM PDT on Jun 8, 2014

Stop 1000 tons of CO2 emissions by saving acres of rainforest for the cost of a cup of coffee: https://www.rainforesttrust.org/acres-for-50cents/

5:36PM PDT on Jun 7, 2014

Shall we give this some thought?

How many of our politicians live near, or are in the direct wind of dirty power plants? Are their children breathing in the chemical air from these plants?

11:13AM PDT on Jun 7, 2014

Isn't it strange that so many other countries (sadly not all, yet) have managed to cut industrial pollution and there has been no catastrophe. But then - I quote a recent article on Alternet- "Americans are dumb and getting dumber" . Alright don't bother to tell me the article was not about pollution - the comment still applies

4:54PM PDT on Jun 6, 2014

Joe L.,
Obviously, we disagree on the definition of a pollutant, and I could just as easily call your definition incorrect. Semantics aside, what we do is important. Estimates are that the CO2 rise would've been cut in half had the forests not been decimated. Planting trees will not change this overnight, but significant progress could be made within a decade. Plants are already growing faster in today's climate. Then, when CO2 emissions are finally reduced, there will be more plantlife to utilized it. Life will continue on this planet. Future warming will only alter it, not eliminate it. Most of the plant and animal life has been around longer than we have, and experienced much warmer and colder temperatures. Most of our destruction of these life forms had come through habitat destruction and overhunting. Reforestation would reduce this loss. I agree that both solutions need to occur, but without added plantlife, CO2 levels will not fall.

4:54PM PDT on Jun 6, 2014

Joe L.,
Obviously, we disagree on the definition of a pollutant, and I could just as easily call your definition incorrect. Semantics aside, what we do is important. Estimates are that the CO2 rise would've been cut in half had the forests not been decimated. Planting trees will not change this overnight, but significant progress could be made within a decade. Plants are already growing faster in today's climate. Then, when CO2 emissions are finally reduced, there will be more plantlife to utilized it. Life will continue on this planet. Future warming will only alter it, not eliminate it. Most of the plant and animal life has been around longer than we have, and experienced much warmer and colder temperatures. Most of our destruction of these life forms had come through habitat destruction and overhunting. Reforestation would reduce this loss. I agree that both solutions need to occur, but without added plantlife, CO2 levels will not fall.

3:09PM PDT on Jun 6, 2014

In order to slow down, and hopefully eventually reverse the negative effects we've already had on the planet due to pollution.. we need to spend less time debating "what is a pollutant, technically" and just clean it all up. Natural, unnatural. All of it. If it's obviously not the way it's supposed to be, fix it. If we all do a lot better, we might be alright.

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