Obama’s Climate Action Plan
Concurrent with a major climate change address at Georgetown University this week, the President released a climate action plan.
The new plan outlines specific actions for cutting U.S. greenhouse gas emissions to fight global warming.
#1 on the action plan list is setting EPA regulations to reduce CO2 emissions from existing coal-fired electric power plants.
Those plants produce 37% of all electricity generated in the United States. The plan says they emit 1/3rd of all U.S. carbon pollution.
The action plan will set EPA standards that will increase the cost of coal electric generation by about 70%.
What is in the rest of the action plan? Are there proposals in it that will replace coal with green energy? Does it propose ways to reduce climate-fighting electricity cost increases for American consumers?
Here are the highlights…
The President proposes a 3-pronged approach to fight climate change:
- Cut carbon pollution
- Prepare the U.S. for the effects of climate change
- Lead international efforts to combat climate change
Number 1, cutting U.S. carbon pollution, is the only part of the plan that targets CO2 directly.
Cut Carbon Pollution
As mentioned, the centerpiece of the Obama strategy is cutting CO2 from existing coal-powered electric plants through new EPA regulations.
In the plan it says there are “abundant clean energy solutions available” to replace it. What the president’s plan doesn’t say is that the only economically viable one within the next several decades is clean burning natural gas.
To its credit, the plan recognizes natural gas as “a critical ‘bridge fuel’ for many countries as the world transitions to even cleaner sources of energy” and “encourages” its use globally.
But, apparently, that does not carry over into the United States.
In 2012, the Administration continued reducing production of natural gas on federal lands. Clean burning natural gas is not being treated as a critical bridge fuel in this country.
The plan proposes other alternative solutions:
- Issue permits for 10 gigawatts of renewable energy on public lands this year
- Issue permits for 10 more gigawatts on public lands by 2020
- DOD will replace 3 gigawatts of its power use with renewables by 2025
- Federal housing will target 100 megawatts from renewables by 2020
That adds up to 23.1 gigawatts of electricity. In 2012, the U.S. used 4,100,000 gigawatts of electricity. Coal produced 1,517,000 gigawatts.
At the president’s proposed growth rate, it would take 9,000 years for renewables just to eliminate coal.
With this new plan, renewables won’t be replacing fossil fuels any century soon.
Other CO2 Reduction Proposals
The President’s plan makes other reasonable proposals to speed up reducing greenhouse gas emissions, mostly through conservation.
By far, auto/truck fuel efficiency (cafe) standards introduced by the Obama Administration to be in place by 2017-2018 will reduce CO2 the most.
Unfortunately, the new plan muddies up just how much that is. Fortunately, the government provides enough data to swag it.
Note: Estimated CO2 savings from auto/truck fuel efficiency standards
According to EIA 2010 figures, transportation generates about 31% of all CO2. Of that total, car and truck exhaust pipes spew 84% of it.
In 2012, average new car auto mileage was 35 mpg. Assuming the 54 mpg plan standard is met in 2017 that would be an increase of 156% in auto fuel efficiency. It would reduce CO2 exhaust by 1/3rd their present levels. We’ll assume heavy duty truck emissions will be reduced by the same percentage.
In 2012, the U.S. generated 5,290 MMTCO2. Therefore:
CO2 reduction = 866 MMTCO2/year = ((5290 X .31) X .84) X (35/54)
All things being equal, if in place today, the new cafe standards would reduce overall U.S. CO2 by a hefty 16% and save money at the gas pump, to!
That assumes, of course, a mileage standard is possible to achieve just by mandating it.
Everything helps. That amount is 3X more than natural gas has already achieved today.
Other Obama Climate Plan Details
Here are a few other things in the plan:
- $8 billion in “self pay” 2014 budget additions to:$250 million for rural utility upgrades
- Fund 30% increase federal agency clean energy technology
- Invest in clean energy R&D
- Conduct “Quadrennial Energy Reviews”
- $250 million for rural utility upgrades
- $23 million for “Multifamily Energy Innovation Fund”
- Develop and deploy “Advanced Transportation Technologies” (biofuels)
- New standards for HFC and methane reductions
- Encourage more hydro and nuclear power
- Better forest management
The Obama Climate Plan serves as a good framework for identifying the main sources of carbon pollution.
As proposed, though, the Obama plan is exceptionally long-term with a disappointing low bang-for-the-buck cost benefit.
It necessarily will increase electricity rates an estimated 70% for coal customers. Costly retrofitting existing coal-fired electric plants with untested technology to meet new EPA standards will take many years. Customer rates must be raised now to pay for it.
Green energy can’t replace coal. It currently supplies only 5% of electric power. Coal supplies 37%. The EIA’s latest forecast says coal’s contribution will increase to 40% in the next two years before going down again.
The Obama plan calls for replacing only a paltry 23.1 gigawatts of electric power with green energy sources by 2025. That is less than 0.0015% of total U.S. coal-based electricity.
Fuel efficiency improvements have the best chance of reducing CO2 by 2018 and could reduce carbon pollution by as much as 16% and save customers at the gas pump, too.
The plan contains over $8 billion in new spending added to the 2014 budget for projects with infinitesimal impact on CO2 emissions.
The Obama plan looks at the main sources of CO2 and proposes solutions. Unfortunately, those solutions are costly, impractical and take far to long to be effective.