Starting in January 2012, the EPA will implement the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR) cap and trade program that will put a cap on ground-level ozone (smog) nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide that cross state lines. The EPA cap and trade program will achieve similar results to last year’s climate bill, making coal less attractive financially than clean energy.
The Obama administration may have lost the battle but it has won the war. Last year, the Waxman-Markey climate bill (which capped coal plant pollution, in order to curtail climate change) was killed in the Senate (Republican filibuster) after passing the then heavily Democratic House.
Now, with no climate bill, it will be the EPA’s own cap and trade under the CSAPR starting in January that will cut climate change, one of several EPA actions which which will curtail the use of coal. The loss will be made up by shifting to more natural gas, wind, solar, geothermal, hydropower, biomass and eventually ocean energy and nuclear power for electricity. The coal industry can also, to some extent, clean up as well.
The EPA has successfully administered cap and trade systems in the past. EPA cap and trade got the lead from our gasoline and EPA cap and trade got the acid from our rain, (and under the Montreal Protocol, international cap and trade is closing the stratospheric ozone hole over Antarctica). So it has a long history of success in putting a cap on pollution, and then ratcheting it down, using cap and trade.
Under cap and trade, dirty power plants must cap pollution. That is the cap. Dirty power plants must pay money to the cleaner power plants. That is the trade (in “emissions quotas”). The money from the dirty power plants pays for the new technology that the clean power plants install to emit less pollution. It is simple, and costs taxpayers little or less than nothing: the CBO score of the climate cap and trade bill showed a net gain of $60 billion over the next eight years, for example.
Republicans have mounted CRA resolutions to put an end to the implementation of the cap and trade plan by the EPA ( S.J. Res 27 and H.R. 2891) but Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolutions can be vetoed by the president, and overcoming a presidential veto would take 67 votes in the Senate. With only 47 Republicans, that would be about as hard for them as it has been over these last 5 years for a Democratic majority of under 60 (for all but a few months) to overcome the persistent Republican filibuster, which only takes 40 votes.
Surprisingly, the shoe is on the other foot.
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Susan Kraemer writes at CleanTechnica, CSP-Today, PV-Insider , SmartGridUpdate and GreenProphet and has been published at Ecoseed, NRDC OnEarth, MatterNetwork, Celsius, EnergyNow and Scientific American. As a former serial entrepreneur in product design she brings an innovator's perspective on inventing a carbon-constrained civilization: If necessity is the mother of invention: solving climate change is the mother of all necessities! As a lover of history and sci fi, she enjoys chronicling the strange future we are creating in these interesting times. Follow Susan @dotcommodity on twitter.