Tag Archives: Clean Power Plan

Fact Sheet: Obama’s Historic Carbon Pollution Standards for Power Plants

Repost from the White House Press Release

Fact Sheet: President Obama to Announce Historic Carbon Pollution Standards for Power Plants

August 3, 2015

The Clean Power Plan is a Landmark Action to Protect Public Health, Reduce Energy Bills for Households and Businesses, Create American Jobs, and Bring Clean Power to Communities across the Country

Today at the White House, President Obama and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy will release the final Clean Power Plan, a historic step in the Obama Administration’s fight against climate change.

We have a moral obligation to leave our children a planet that’s not polluted or damaged. The effects of climate change are already being felt across the nation. In the past three decades, the percentage of Americans with asthma has more than doubled, and climate change is putting those Americans at greater risk of landing in the hospital. Extreme weather events – from more severe droughts and wildfires in the West to record heat waves – and sea level rise are hitting communities across the country. In fact, 14 of the 15 warmest years on record have all occurred in the first 15 years of this century and last year was the warmest year ever. The most vulnerable among us – including children, older adults, people with heart or lung disease, and people living in poverty – are most at risk from the impacts of climate change. Taking action now is critical.

The Clean Power Plan establishes the first-ever national standards to limit carbon pollution from power plants. We already set limits that protect public health by reducing soot and other toxic emissions, but until now, existing power plants, the largest source of carbon emissions in the United States, could release as much carbon pollution as they wanted.

The final Clean Power Plan sets flexible and achievable standards to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 32 percent from 2005 levels by 2030, 9 percent more ambitious than the proposal. By setting carbon pollution reduction goals for power plants and enabling states to develop tailored implementation plans to meet those goals, the Clean Power Plan is a strong, flexible framework that will:

  • Provide significant public health benefits – The Clean Power Plan, and other policies put in place to drive a cleaner energy sector, will reduce premature deaths from power plant emissions by nearly 90 percent in 2030 compared to 2005 and decrease the pollutants that contribute to the soot and smog and can lead to more asthma attacks in kids by more than 70 percent. The Clean Power Plan will also avoid up to 3,600 premature deaths, lead to 90,000 fewer asthma attacks in children, and prevent 300,000 missed work and school days.
  • Create tens of thousands of jobs while ensuring grid reliability;
  • Drive more aggressive investment in clean energy technologies than the proposed rule, resulting in 30 percent more renewable energy generation in 2030 and continuing to lower the costs of renewable energy.
  • Save the average American family nearly $85 on their annual energy bill in 2030, reducing enough energy to power 30 million homes, and save consumers a total of $155 billion from 2020-2030;
  • Give a head start to wind and solar deployment and prioritize the deployment of energy efficiency improvements in low-income communities that need it most early in the program through a Clean Energy Incentive Program; and
  • Continue American leadership on climate change by keeping us on track to meet the economy-wide emissions targets we have set, including the goal of reducing emissions to 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020 and to 26-28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025.

KEY FEATURES OF THE CLEAN POWER PLAN

The final Clean Power Plan takes into account the unprecedented input EPA received through extensive outreach, including the 4 million comments that were submitted to the agency during the public comment period. The result is a fair, flexible program that will strengthen the fast-growing trend toward cleaner and lower-polluting American energy. The Clean Power Plan significantly reduces carbon pollution from the electric power sector while advancing clean energy innovation, development, and deployment. It ensures the U.S. will stay on a path of long-term clean energy investments that will maintain the reliability of our electric grid, promote affordable and clean energy for all Americans, and continue United States leadership on climate action. The Clean Power Plan:   

  • Provides Flexibility to States to Choose How to Meet Carbon Standards: EPA’s Clean Power Plan establishes carbon pollution standards for power plants, called carbon dioxide (CO2) emission performance rates. States develop and implement tailored plans to ensure that the power plants in their state meet these standards– either individually, together, or in combination with other measures like improvements in renewable energy and energy efficiency. The final rule provides more flexibility in how state plans can be designed and implemented, including: streamlined opportunities for states to include proven strategies like trading and demand-side energy efficiency in their plans, and allows states to develop “trading ready” plans to participate in “opt in” to an emission credit trading market with other states taking parallel approaches without the need for interstate agreements. All low-carbon electricity generation technologies, including renewables, energy efficiency, natural gas, nuclear and carbon capture and storage, can play a role in state plans.
  • More Time for States Paired With Strong Incentives for Early Deployment of Clean Energy: State plans are due in September of 2016, but states that need more time can make an initial submission and request extensions of up to two years for final plan submission.  The compliance averaging period begins in 2022 instead of 2020, and emission reductions are phased in on a gradual “glide path” to 2030. These provisions to give states and companies more time to prepare for compliance are paired with a new Clean Energy Incentive Program to drive deployment of renewable energy and low-income energy efficiency before 2022.
  • Creates Jobs and Saves Money for Families and Businesses: The Clean Power Plan builds on the progress states, cities, and businesses and have been making for years. Since the beginning of 2010, the average cost of a solar electric system has dropped by half and wind is increasingly competitive nationwide. The Clean Power Plan will drive significant new investment in cleaner, more modern and more efficient technologies, creating tens of thousands of jobs. Under the Clean Power Plan, by 2030, renewables will account for 28 percent of our capacity, up from 22 percent in the proposed rule. Due to these improvements, the Clean Power Plan will save the average American nearly $85 on their energy bill in 2030, and save consumers a total of $155 billion through 2020-2030, reducing enough energy to power 30 million homes.
  • Rewards States for Early Investment in Clean Energy, Focusing on Low-Income Communities: The Clean Power Plan establishes a Clean Energy Incentive Program that will drive additional early deployment of renewable energy and low-income energy efficiency. Under the program, credits for electricity generated from renewables in 2020 and 2021 will be awarded to projects that begin construction after participating states submit their final implementation plans. The program also prioritizes early investment in energy efficiency projects in low-income communities by the Federal government awarding these projects double the number of credits in 2020 and 2021. Taken together, these incentives will drive faster renewable energy deployment, further reduce technology costs, and lay the foundation for deep long-term cuts in carbon pollution. In addition, the Clean Energy Incentive Plan provides additional flexibility for states, and will increase the overall net benefits of the Clean Power Plan.
  • Ensures Grid Reliability: The Clean Power Plan contains several important features to ensure grid reliability as we move to cleaner sources of power. In addition to giving states more time to develop implementation plans, starting compliance in 2022, and phasing in the targets over the decade, the rule requires states to address reliability in their state plans. The final rule also provides a “reliability safety valve” to address any reliability challenges that arise on a case-by-case basis. These measures are built on a framework that is inherently flexible in that it does not impose plant-specific requirements and provides states flexibility to smooth out their emission reductions over the period of the plan and across sources.
  • Continues U.S. Leadership on Climate Change: The Clean Power Plan continues United States leadership on climate change. By driving emission reductions from power plants, the largest source of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, the Clean Power Plan builds on prior Administration steps to reduce emissions, including historic investments to deploy clean energy technologies, standards to double the fuel economy of our cars and light trucks, and steps to reduce methane pollution. Taken together these measures put the United States on track to achieve the President’s near-term target to reduce emissions in the range of 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020, and lay a strong foundation to deliver against our long-term target to reduce emissions 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025. The release of the Clean Power Plan continues momentum towards international climate talks in Paris in December, building on announcements to-date of post-2020 targets by countries representing 70 percent of global energy based carbon emissions.
  • Sets State Targets in a Way That Is Fair and Is Directly Responsive to Input from States, Utilities, and Stakeholders: In response to input from stakeholders, the final Clean Power Plan modifies the way that state targets are set by using an approach that better reflects the way the electricity grid operates, using updated information about the cost and availability of clean generation technologies, and establishing separate emission performance rates for all coal plants and all gas plants.
  • Maintains Energy Efficiency as Key Compliance Tool: In addition to on-site efficiency and greater are reliance on low and zero carbon generation, the Clean Power Plan provides states with broad flexibility to design carbon reduction plans that include energy efficiency and other emission reduction strategies.  EPA’s analysis shows that energy efficiency is expected to play a major role in meeting the state targets as a cost-effective and widely-available carbon reduction tool, saving enough energy to power 30 million homes and putting money back in ratepayers’ pockets.
  • Requires States to Engage with Vulnerable Populations: The Clean Power Plan includes provisions that require states to meaningfully engage with low-income, minority, and tribal communities, as the states develop their plans. EPA also encourages states to engage with workers and their representatives in the utility and related sectors in developing their state plans.
  • Includes a Proposed Federal Implementation Plan: EPA is also releasing a proposed federal plan today. This proposed plan will provide a model states can use in designing their plans, and when finalized, will be a backstop to ensure that the Clean Power Plan standards are met in every state. 

Since the Clean Air Act became law more than 45 years ago with bipartisan support, the EPA has continued to protect the health of communities, in particular those vulnerable to the impacts of harmful air pollution, while the economy has continued to grow. In fact, since 1970, air pollution has decreased by nearly 70 percent while the economy has tripled in size. The Clean Power Plan builds on this progress, while providing states the flexibility and tools to transition to clean, reliable, and affordable electricity.

BUILDING ON PROGRESS

The Clean Power Plan builds on steps taken by the Administration, states, cities, and companies to move to cleaner sources of energy. Solar electricity generation has increased more than 20-fold since 2008, and electricity from wind has more than tripled.  Efforts such as the following give us a strong head start in meeting the Clean Power Plan’s goals:

  • 50 states with demand-side energy efficiency programs
  • 37 states with renewable portfolio standards or goals
  • 10 states with market-based greenhouse gas reduction programs
  • 25 states with energy efficiency standards or goals

Today’s actions also build on a series of actions the Administration is taking through the President’s Climate Action Plan to reduce the dangerous levels of carbon pollution that are contributing to climate change, including:

  • Standards for Light and Heavy-Duty Vehicles: Earlier this summer, the EPA and the Department of Transportation proposed the second phase of fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas standards for medium- and heavy-duty vehicles, which if finalized as proposed will reduce 1 billion tons of carbon pollution. The proposed standards build on the first phase of heavy-duty vehicle requirements and standards for light-duty vehicles issued during the President’s first term that will save Americans $1.7 trillion, reduce oil consumption by 2.2 million barrels per day by 2025, and slash greenhouse gas emissions by 6 billion metric tons through the lifetime of the program.
  • Low Income Solar: Last month, the White House announced a new initiative to increase access to solar energy for all Americans, in particular low-and moderate income communities, and build a more inclusive workforce. The initiative will help families and businesses cut their energy bills through launching a National Community Solar Partnership to unlock access to solar for the nearly 50 percent of households and business that are renters or do not have adequate roof space to install solar systems and sets a goal to install 300 megawatts (MW) of renewable energy in federally subsidized housing by 2020. Through this initiative housing authorities, rural electric co-ops, power companies, and organizations in more than 20 states across the country committed to put in place more than 260 solar energy projects and philanthropic and impact investors, states, and cities are committed to invest $520 million to advance community solar and scale up solar and energy efficiency for low- and moderate- income households. The initiative also includes AmeriCorps funding to deploy solar and create jobs in underserved communities and a commitment from the solar industry to become the most diverse sector of the U.S. energy industry.
  • Economy-Wide Measures to Reduce other Greenhouse Gases: EPA and other agencies are taking actions to cut methane emissions from oil and gas systems, landfills, coal mining, and agriculture through cost-effective voluntary actions and common-sense standards. At the same time, the U.S. Department of State is working to slash global emissions of potent industrial greenhouse gases, called hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), through an amendment to the Montreal Protocol; EPA is cutting domestic HFC emissions through its Significant New Alternatives Policy (SNAP) program; and, the private sector has stepped up with commitments to cut global HFC emissions equivalent to 700 million metric tons of carbon pollution through 2025.
  • Investing in Coal Communities, Workers, and Communities:  In February, as part of the President’s FY 2016 budget, the Administration released the POWER+ Plan to invest in workers and jobs, address important legacy costs in coal country, and drive the development of coal technology. The Plan provides dedicated new resources for economic diversification, job creation, job training, and other employment services for workers and communities impacted by layoffs at coal mines and coal-fired power plants; includes unprecedented investments in the health and retirement security of mineworkers and their families and the accelerated clean-up of hazardous coal abandoned mine lands; and provides new tax incentives to support continued technology development and deployment of carbon capture, utilization, and sequestration technologies.
  • Energy Efficiency Standards:  DOE set a goal of reducing carbon pollution by 3 billion metric tons cumulatively by 2030 through energy conservation standards issued during this Administration. DOE has already finalized energy conservation standards for 29 categories of appliances and equipment, as well as a building code determination for commercial buildings. These measures will also cut consumers’ annual electricity bills by billions of dollars.
  • Investing in Clean Energy:  In June the White House announced more than $4 billion in private-sector commitments and executive actions to scale up investment in clean energy innovation, including launching a new Clean Energy Impact Investment Center at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to make information about energy and climate programs at DOE and other government agencies accessible and more understandable to the public, including to mission-driven investors.

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    California Gov. Brown: keep the oil in the ground

    Repost from the San Francisco Chronicle
    [Editor – This report signals a highly significant shift in the discussions surrounding climate change and the oil industry: cut demand … or cut supply?   A must read!  – RS]

    Gov. Brown wants to keep oil in the ground. But whose oil?

    By David R. Baker, July 26, 2015 8:16pm
    California Gov. Jerry Brown, right,  delivers his speech flanked by the head of the pontifical academy of Science, Bishop Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo, during  a conference on Modern Slavery and Climate Change in the Casina Pio IV the Vatican, Wednesday, July 22, 2015.  Dozens of environmentally friendly mayors from around the world are meeting at the Vatican this week to bask in the star power of eco-Pope Francis and commit to reducing global warming and helping the urban poor deal with its effects. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino) Photo: Alessandra Tarantino, Associated Press
    California Gov. Jerry Brown, right, delivers his speech during a conference on Modern Slavery and Climate Change in the Casina Pio IV the Vatican, Wednesday, July 22, 2015. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

    Even the greenest, most eco-friendly politicians rarely utter the words Gov. Jerry Brown spoke at the Vatican’s climate change symposium last week.

    To prevent the worst effects of global warming, one-third of the world’s known oil reserves must remain in the ground, Brown told the gathering of government officials from around the world. The same goes for 50 percent of natural gas reserves and 90 percent of coal.

    “Now that is a revolution,” Brown said. “That is going to take a call to arms.”

    It’s an idea widely embraced among environmentalists and climate scientists. Burn all the world’s known fossil fuel supplies — the ones already discovered by energy companies — and the atmosphere would warm to truly catastrophic levels. Never mind hunting for more oil.

    But it’s a concept few politicians will touch. That’s because it raises a question no one wants to answer: Whose oil has to stay put?

    “They’ve all got their own oil,” said environmental activist and author Bill McKibben, who first popularized the issue with a widely read 2012 article in Rolling Stone. “Recognizing that you’ve got to leave your own oil — and not somebody else’s — in the ground is the next step.”

    Take California.

    No state has done more to fight global warming. By 2020, under state law, one-third of California’s electricity must come from the sun, the wind and other renewable sources. Brown wants 50 percent renewable power by 2030 and has called for slashing the state’s oil use in half by the same year.

    But he has shown no interest in cutting the state’s oil production. He has touted the economic potential of California’s vast Monterey Shale formation, whose oil reserves drillers are still trying to tap. And he has steadfastly refused calls from within his own party to ban fracking.

    “If we reduce our oil drilling in California by a few percent, which a ban on fracking would do, we’ll import more oil by train or by boat,” Brown told “Meet the Press.” “That doesn’t make a lot of sense.”

    California remains America’s third-largest oil producing state, behind Texas and North Dakota. The industry directly employs 184,100 Californians, helps support an estimated 271,840 other jobs and yields $21.2 billion in state and local taxes each year, according to the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation.

    ‘Phasing out oil drilling’

    Any governor, no matter how environmentally minded, would have a hard time turning that down. Even if many environmentalists wish Brown would.

    “Just like we have a plan for increasing renewables, we need a plan for phasing out oil drilling in California,” said Dan Jacobson, state director for Environment California.

    It’s difficult for politicians to even talk about something as stark as putting limits on pumping oil, he said.

    “Solar and wind and electric cars are really hopeful things, whereas keeping oil in the ground sounds more like doomsday,” Jacobson said.

    And yet, Jacobson, McKibben and now apparently Brown are convinced that most fossil fuel reserves must never be used.

    The percentages Brown cited come from a study published this year in the scientific journal Nature. The researchers calculated that in order to keep average global temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius — 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit — above preindustrial levels, the world’s economy can pump no more than 1,100 gigatons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere between 2011 and 2050. Burning the world’s known fossil fuel reserves would produce roughly three times that amount, they wrote.

    Most governments pursing climate-change policies have agreed to aim for a 2-degree Celsius warming limit, although many scientists consider that dangerously high. So far, global temperatures have warmed 0.8 degrees Celsius from preindustrial times.

    “The unabated use of all current fossil fuel reserves is incompatible with a warming limit of 2 degrees Celsius,” the study concludes.

    Nonetheless, states, countries and companies with fossil fuel reserves all have an obvious and powerful incentive to keep drilling.

    The market value of oil companies, for example, is based in part on the size of their reserves and their ability to find more. Activist investors warning of a “carbon bubble” in their valuations have pushed the companies to assess how many of those reserves could become stranded assets if they can’t be burned. The companies have resisted.

    President Obama, meanwhile, has made fighting climate change a key focus of his presidency, raising fuel efficiency standards for cars, pumping public financing into renewable power and pushing for cuts in greenhouse gas emissions from power plants.

    Cut demand or cut supply

    But Obama has also boasted about America’s surging oil and natural gas production — and tried to claim credit for it. Last week, his administration gave Royal Dutch Shell the green light to hunt for oil in the Arctic Ocean. Keeping oil in the ground does not quite square with his “all of the above” energy policy, observers note. At least, not American oil.

    “The same government that is working very hard to get a Clean Power Plan is allowing Shell to go exploring for hydrocarbons in the middle of nowhere, oil that may never be producible,” said climate activist and former hedge fund executive Tom Steyer, with audible exasperation.

    He notes that Obama, Brown and other politicians intent on fighting climate change have focused their efforts on cutting the demand for fossil fuels, rather than the supply. Most of the policies that climate activists want to see enacted nationwide — such as placing a price on emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases — would do the same, ratcheting down demand rather than placing hard limits on fossil fuel production.

    “The political thinking is the market itself will take care of figuring out which fossil fuels have to stay in the ground,” Steyer said.

    Some climate fights, however, have focused on supply. And again, the issue of whose fossil fuels have to stay put has played a part.

    Opponents of the Keystone XL pipeline extension, for example, see blocking the project — which would run from Canada to America’s Gulf Coast — as a way to stop or at least slow development of Alberta’s enormous oil sands. James Hansen, the former head of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, famously declared that fully developing the sands would be “game over for the climate.”

    Obama has delayed a decision on the pipeline for years. Given America’s own rising oil production, rejecting a project that could be a boon for the Canadian economy would be difficult, analysts say.

    “The message would be, ‘We’re not going to help you develop your resources — we’ll essentially raise the cost,’” said UC Berkeley energy economist Severin Borenstein. He is convinced that Canada will develop the tar sands, regardless.

    “It’s become such a huge symbol that it’s impossible for Obama to make a decision on it,” Borenstein said. “I think he’s just going to run out the clock.”

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      Why U.S. oil companies clash with EU peers on global warming

      Repost from The San Francisco Chronicle

      Why U.S. oil companies clash with EU peers on global warming

      By David R. Baker, Sunday, June 7, 2015 11:37 am
      John Watson, CEO of the Chevron Corporation, speaks during an energy summit in Washington, D.C., in 2011. Photo: Saul Loeb, AFP/Getty Images
      John Watson, CEO of the Chevron Corporation, speaks during an energy summit in Washington, D.C., in 2011. Photo: Saul Loeb, AFP/Getty Images

      The fight against climate change has opened a trans-Atlantic rift in an industry often seen as a monolith — Big Oil.

      Unwilling to sit on the sidelines of climate negotiations, Europe’s largest oil companies last month issued a joint statement calling for a worldwide price on the greenhouse gas emissions that come from burning their products. Such a price, they said, would help the global economy transition to cleaner sources of energy.

      The CEOs of BP, Eni, Royal Dutch Shell, Statoil and Total all signed the statement.

      None of their American counterparts did.

      Chevron Corp. CEO John Watson argued that his European colleagues are pushing a policy that consumers would never embrace. Focus instead on developing nuclear plants and natural gas reserves to fight global warming, he said.

      “It’s not a policy that is going to be effective, because customers want affordable energy,” Watson said last week, at an OPEC seminar in Vienna. “They want low energy prices, not high energy prices.”

      The split, analysts say, reflects the stark divide between climate politics in Europe and the United States.

      Europe already has a cap-and-trade system for setting a price on greenhouse gas emissions. Public debate over global warming revolves around how best to fight it, not whether it exists.

      In the United States, many conservatives still insist that warming is either a natural phenomenon or an outright hoax perpetrated by scientists, environmentalists and their political allies. Pricing carbon is a nonstarter for most Republicans in Washington, who are trying to block President Obama’s climate regulations. An effort to create a nationwide cap-and-trade system died in 2010, in part due to opposition from oil- and coal-producing states.

      “The domestic politics for the U.S. companies is different from what it is for the Europeans,” said Raymond Kopp, a senior fellow with the Resources for the Future think tank. “Right now, this is a difficult conversation for them to have domestically.”

      And that’s assuming they want to have it all.

      Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson has expressed support for a tax on greenhouse gas emissions but hasn’t pushed for it. The company formerly supported groups that questioned the scientific consensus on warming. Billionaires Charles and David Koch, whose wealth comes largely from oil and gas, have poured money into the campaigns of political candidates who oppose action on climate change. The Koch brothers have announced plans to spend $889 million during the 2016 election cycle.

      California policies

      And while Chevron’s home base lies in the only U.S. state with a full-scale cap-and-trade program — California — the company has often criticized the state’s climate-change policies, warning they could push energy prices higher.

      Last month’s statement from the European oil CEOs, in contrast, brands climate change “a critical challenge for our world” that must be tackled immediately. The executives urge governments that haven’t already done so to start putting a price on carbon.

      The statement, issued as an open letter to two top international climate negotiators, is notably silent on whether the companies prefer a tax on greenhouse gas emissions or a cap-and-trade system. Such systems — including California’s, which began in 2012 — force businesses to buy credits for each ton of carbon dioxide they emit.

      The CEOs make clear, however, that they eventually want a worldwide price.

      “Pricing carbon obviously adds a cost to our production and our products,” they write. “But carbon pricing policy frameworks will contribute to provide our businesses and their many stakeholders with a clear roadmap for future investment, a level playing field for all energy sources across geographies and a clear role in securing a more sustainable future.”

      Natural gas strategy

      The CEOs also hint at how their companies could thrive in such a future, by producing more natural gas and investing in renewable technology. Indeed, the companies already have extensive natural gas holdings, analysts noted.

      “If you’re on the board of directors of an oil company, you have to be asking yourself, ‘What’s our future in a low-carbon world?’ And with this letter, I think you see these companies trying to figure it out,” said Ralph Cavanagh, energy program co-director for the Natural Resources Defense Council environmental group.

      Chevron and Exxon have also invested heavily in natural gas, which when burned in power plants produces roughly half the greenhouse gas emissions of coal. Regulations limiting emissions, including the Obama administration’s effort to cut emissions from power plants, could help them.

      “I can’t imagine that Exxon or Chevron, which are companies that would benefit from a shift to natural gas, would be privately opposed to the Clean Power Plan,” said Amy Myers Jaffe, director of the energy and sustainability program at UC Davis.

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