In a Monday speech at Georgetown University, President Barack Obama gave a preview of forthcoming major initiatives to address climate change and environmental concerns.
The President is expected to unveil his plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions on Tuesday and little to none of what he may suggest will require Congressional action, according to multiple media reports.
Some of the details of the climate change proposal revealed today include:
• Limiting carbon pollution from existing power plants;
• Directing the EPA to devise standards for emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases from existing power plants;
• Completing standards for new fossil fuel power plants;
• A new round of fuel efficiency standards for heavy-duty trucks;
• New efficiency targets for appliances and buildings to cut carbon pollution; and,
• Loan guarantees for energy efficiency and fossil fuel projects.
All told, the plan could push the United States to meet a goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 17% below 2005 levels by 2020, and it is likely to ignite years worth of litigation and Congressional objection to the efforts. (Link here for the White House release of the plan.)
In Arkansas, there was quick reaction to the news.
Bentonville-based Wal-Mart Stores, which has embarked on aggressive plans to use renewable energy and reduce its environmental footprint, gave an enthusiastic thumbs up.
“We applaud the President and his administration for their commitment to renewable energy and conservation,” Wal-Mart CEO Mike Duke said in a statement. “Investing in renewable energy and energy conservation are good for business, good for communities and good for the environment. When we use less energy, that’s less energy we have to buy, and that means less waste and more savings for our customers.”
U.S. Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., does not share Duke's view of Obama’s plan. Boozman’s office issued the following statement.
“This is nothing more than a backdoor attempt to impose cap-and-trade on the American people. President Obama couldn’t get that through Congress, so now he is turning to his regulators. His proposal will drive up electricity prices, especially in Arkansas, and make it impossible for our manufacturers to compete with companies in China and India.
“If raising the cost of electricity on hardworking Arkansans isn’t enough, the President’s proposal will also hit them at the pump. By insisting on new benchmarks for the Keystone Pipeline, which has already cleared more hurdles than most projects, the President is stalling the project further. This is incomprehensible when American families are struggling. The Keystone Pipeline will create thousands of well-paying jobs and helps reduce our dependence on foreign sources of oil, which are two of our top national priorities. There is absolutely no reason to continue to stall it.
“The bottom line is that our economy is fragile. Arkansans are struggling to get by and instead of coming up with solutions, President Obama is coming up with draconian regulations that make matters worse. His proposal would eliminate more than half a million jobs, reduce annual household incomes and raise energy prices by 20 percent. It’s the wrong direction to take our country in right now.”
Sandra Byrd, vice president of member and public relations for the Arkansas Electric Cooperatives Corp., warned that the aggressive actions and fast-track for implementation would have a detrimental impact on Arkansas.
“We have great concerns about this,” said Byrd, a former chairperson of the state’s Public Service Commission. “It’s definitely not going to be good for rural Arkansas or rural America.”
Byrd said the most problematic goal would be placing standards on existing power plants that run on coal and other fossil fuels. She said it would be difficult enough to meet strict standards for newly constructed plants, but facilities currently in operation have few options for compliance.
“Any changes to existing environmental regulations that would force less usage of our coal plants will increase costs to consumers and potentially impact the reliability of the grid,” she said.
Glen Hooks, senior campaign representative with Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign, disagreed.
“This is the change Americans and Arkansans have been waiting for on climate,” Hooks said.
He noted that there are three coal-burning power plants in Arkansas that his group has targeted as problematic.
“Today’s announcement squarely addresses these dirty plants and will go a long way toward protecting Arkansans’s health from dangerous coal pollution,” he said.
Randy Zook, CEO for the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce/Associated Industries of Arkansas, said the President’s plan would take the state’s and country’s economy backward.
“It’s an unprecedented attack on jobs and it will put Arkansas and the rest of the U.S. at a disadvantage,” said Zook.
He said coal is a necessary component to the nation’s energy policy and eliminating it from the portfolio of reliable energy sources is wrong.
“We need to figure out smart ways to use this valuable resource, not turn our backs on it and waste the opportunity to fuel a competitive economy.”
U.S. Rep. Steve Womack, R-Rogers, had this to say about Obama’s climate plan: “Today, President Obama announced plans to expand his oppressive energy agenda, establishing even more restrictions, pushing new backdoor energy taxes, and delaying solutions – like the Keystone pipeline – that will address our rising energy costs. People like you and I don’t belong to the ‘Flat Earth Society’ as the President accused; we simply live in the real world and recognize the need for and the value of an all-of-the-above energy policy, which I will continue to support.”
The office of U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton, R-Dardanelle, issued this statement:
“Today’s energy announcement is just another example of President Obama circumventing the legislative process to force his tax-regulate-and-spend agenda on the American people. His “war on coal” has now evolved into a full-blown assault on American energy. And Arkansans have a lot at stake.
“The policies and regulations proposed today amount to a national energy tax. They would force 13 of Arkansas’s 14 active power plants to close their doors, cause energy prices to skyrocket, and put thousands across the Natural State out of work.
“From the Fayetteville shale to the lignite coal in south Arkansas, our state is brimming with energy resources. We should be looking for ways to take advantage of these resources to decrease costs and encouraging American energy independence, not imposing more government red-tape.”